Posted by: Subway Conductor | March 20, 2010

Feburary 2010

From Rabbi Arsers

For many American Jews, Purim is a children’s holiday.  Reading the story of the Megillah with all of the cheering and booing and sounding of gragers, along with wearing costumes and having parties, Purim certainly seems like a celebration especially for children.  And yet, there is a statement in the tradition that Purim will be the only holiday that will remain in the time of the Messiah.  Why Purim?

I believe that the answer lies precisely in all of the merry-making and joviality of the holiday.  Purim is the most physical of Jewish holidays.  Eating, drinking, and being raucous are a major part of the observance of Purim.  Purim seems to be the opposite of Yom Kippur – a day on which we fast and sit quietly in our seats at the synagogue. And yet another statement in the tradition says that Yom Kippur is a day like Purim.  (In Hebrew, Yom Kippur is called Yom Kippurim.  You can see that the word Purim is actually contained in the word Kippurim.)  How can the tradition claim that Yom Kippur is a day like Purim? These holidays seem to be opposites, not close relations.

But the tradition is teaching us something very important and that something is what will remain in the time of the Messiah with the observance of Purim.  Spirituality is not about fasting and praying.  Fasting and praying can have a spiritual impact on us.  But eating, drinking, and cheering and booing can also have enormous spiritual significance.  The spiritual significance is not in the specific act, but in our attitude toward any act.  When we eat and drink on Purim, that can be a spiritual act just as much as fasting and confessing our sins on Yom Kippur.  The question is do we see these acts as spiritual.

Judaism as a religion has never emphasized asceticism.  Rejecting wordily pleasures and inflicting ourselves is not what Judaism sees as the ideal life.  Rather, we are to live in such as way that the basic goodness of the world (remember that G-d said after each day of creation “and behold it is good”) is made clear. The important thing is to realize that all the goodness of this world is given to us as a gift from G-d and that our major duty is to express our gratitude to G-d.  We should enjoy the world, we should “eat, drink, and be merry” but always with a view towards serving G-d, recognizing that all that goodness has a source and it is for a purpose, and we didn’t create it. Judaism advises us to enjoy the pleasures of this world, but in accordance with the rules and guidelines given to us in the Torah. That is the lesson that we can learn from Purim.

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