Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Purim - A special time to ask G-d for our needs.

When G-d tells us to do something, He accepts upon Himself the same obligations. Hence, since Jews are commanded to wear tefilin, G-d, too, "dons" tefillin. Understandably though, His tefillin are slightly different. Whereas our tefillin speak of our love for G-d and our responsibility to obey His commands, G-d's tefillin speak of His love for the Jewish people.

This reciprocal relationship is expressed in the upcoming holiday of Purim. On Purim, we have the mitzva of giving charity to every single who extends his/her hand for help.

Our Sages explain, that on Purim, we, too, have the right to "put out our hand" to G-d and ask Him for our needs. As we are commanded by G-d to fulfill the needs of others when they extend their hands on Purim, G-d will also fulfill our needs when we do the same.

How do we put out our hand to G-d? Through prayer.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that on Purim one should rise early to pray and ask G-d for everything that he needs. And not only for oneself, but for others as well, for Purim-like Yom Kippur-is an especially auspicious time for our prayers.

Thus, amidst the rejoicing, merrymaking, charity-giving, gifts of food sending, Megila-hearing etc, it is a truly opportune time to spend some minutes in heartfelt prayer to G-d, putting out our hands for all of our own personal needs, and for the needs of our family and friends. And, at the same time, for the global need - the revelation of Moshiach and the final Redemption.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Purim - Find G-d when he is concealed.

On the surface, the Purim story is not the typical background to a Jewish festival. Seas don't split, oil does not burn longer than it should and water does not turn into blood. In this story, the Divine hand is not obvious. G‑d is quite hidden in the story. In fact, His name is not even explicitly mentioned even once in the Book of Esther. Add all this up, and it could all be misinterpreted as a successful diplomatic mission. One has to work hard to uncover and see the miraculous chain of events that brought about the salvation.

And this is precisely the power of Purim—to discover G‑d even when He is concealed. The message of Purim is that we possess the power to gain clarity even when there is confusion, to see light even when it is dark and become inspired even when there are no out-of-the-ordinary events.

It is much easier to be motivated and inspired by an open miracle or Divine revelation that makes the truth completely obvious. But when we have to work it out ourselves it reflects greater commitment and is more valuable and permanent.

On other festivals, we celebrate with spiritual service. The shofar on Rosh hashana, the Yom Kippur prayers and the Passover seder are all inspiring, uplifting, meaningful experiences. On Purim, there is little spirituality; rather, we celebrate in more physical ways. On Purim we can connect to our soul and to G‑d in a less obvious environment. We share food with each other, say l'chaim and eat a festive meal. On Purim, we do not need to leave our mundane world to be to be uplifted—we are inspired and committed even when eating hamantaschen.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happiness Breaks Boundaries

The festival of Purim is the happiest day in the Jewish calendar. One of the traditions of the day is dressing up and wearing masks. What's the connection between happiness and wearing masks?

Our sages tell us that "Happiness breaks boundaries."

The happiness achieved for self pleasure, like wild parties where there is little purpose or focus, only breaks the boundaries of self discipline and self respect. That is not true happiness.

True happiness is one with purpose and meaning. Not merely external pleasure but rather the celebration of meaningful milestones, spiritual growth or major accomplishments. This happiness is a true and lasting one.

The boundaries that are broken when we have this true happiness are the boundaries and barriers that separate us one from another. When we experience true happiness, it allows us to develop a different perspective on ourselves and other people. We stop judging others by their external behavior-the things they say or do-and we begin to appreciate their inner soul. We begin to understand that the annoying personality traits that separate us are only superficial masks that conceal the true them. Beneath the mask there is a pristine soul that makes him/her a special human being. The energy of our happiness allows us to break through that mask and see what is beneath.

On Purim, we dress up as a reminder that our outward appearance and behavior is a mask, a cover up. And so the celebration of Purim gives us the ability to look behind one's mask and discover the real person.