For Purim (conclusion)

In Reb Zalman’s book, Yishmiru Daat, the following section is a continuation of the last post, For Purim.  Have a joyful holiday!  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor 

[The previous section spoke of replacing the mantra of self-doubt associated with the remembering of Amalek with the mantra, “We are God’s treasure.”]

“Blot out the memory of Amalek” (Deut 25:19).  How must we go about eradicating the memory of Amalek? By recognizing that we are no longer in the same position we were then.  Now we are in the presence of a loving God, receiving Hir grace and blessing. Keeping the positive reminders in our awareness creates a situation for us which helps us find strategies to fight residual effects of having Amalek, self-doubt, within us. The positive reminders better enable us to look at our enemies objectively, without having our visions clouded by the past traumas and residual introjections, by other enemies or situations, by historic conditions which had once convinced us of our worthlessness, conditions no longer with us in the present, (such as the effects we still feel from the time when the Nazis wanted to destroy our bodies or the time when the Inquisition wanted to destroy our souls).

The commandment to remember Amalek, and to erase the memory of Amalek is hard to follow, (one doesn’t know how to simultaneously “remember-forget”).  In truth, the contradiction is a very deep and profound koan, opposites held simultaneously, with which there is no better way of dealing than to transcend all knowledge:  As the Talmud says (Meg 7b): On Purim, an enosh / a  depressed person is to become so fully intoxicated until s/he reaches the level of beyond knowing whether Mordecai or Haman is to be blessed or cursed.

Amalek, has the same numerical value as the word SaFeQ, doubt, which comes from sending out dualities, Zweifel / doubt in German (the etymology literally means from which of the zwei / two to choose, a doubt of doubles or double doubt).  Therefore, a time was designated in the calendar to deal with the doubt, and it calls for a topsy-turvyness of the mind (or as the Talmud puts it, “Turning the plate upside down, cf, Bava Basra 16), through intoxication.

Who could possibly think that Haman should be blessed? Yet, on this day one can see that without Haman there would have been no Purim. And in order that this should be a Purim, a day to celebrate light and joy and glee, a Haman is necessary!  And how might one think that Mordecai is to be cursed? From the doubt place, one might assume that if Mordecai had knelt and bowed before Haman, Haman would never have thought of the idea to destroy the Jewish people. So for bringing all this anxiety onto us, one might think of cursing Mordecai!

In all truth, God’s divinity, may S/He be blessed, is beyond distinctions (eyn aruch), even distinctions like “blessed be Mordechai” and “cursed be Haman.”  So from this perspective, and in order to become in touch with the requirement that “a person is to become intoxicated” [as written regarding Purim], think of it not so much as with the wine but rather with reaching to the place beyond distinctions, a place of unknowing, i.e., unknowing the distinction of blessing and curse.

A further thought concerning that intoxication can be seen in the word Purim which means casting lots. What especially will my lot be?  Will it be a good one, one like “blessed be Mordecai,” or a bad one, one like “cursed be Haman?” Even this question of what the lot will be is not as important as the recognition that, as tradition says, in the days of the Messiah the holiday of Purim is to remain intact.  Why?  Because [just as God is beyond distinctions] so we can say that the moment of the randomness of casting lots is beyond distinctions of ethics, morals and equity / inequity. 

From the way one responds to one’s lot or destiny, we can see whether a person is a Gever / person of great inner strength, an Ish / average, or Enosh / a weak one who does not reconcile hir fate and serve God from this place. 

So when the Talmud says that an Enosh, the weakest one, is to become intoxicated on Purim, it means that there is a hope that also this weakest one will become connected with the hidden mystery, the secret of destiny, with the One who is not found in the Megillah text, the hidden One, (God’s name is not mentioned in this text).  There is a hope that the intoxication will lead this Enosh to a place beyond cursed and blessed. A place of being deeply touched by destiny is much more profound than being touched when one encounters a visible providence of God.

Thus we have the real meaning of “Happy are we, how good is our portion, how delightful is our lot:”

First, the level of Yod of YHVH: Keter, Chochmah

“Happy are we, how good” – it is all good, and (Zohar III 129) “In Keter there’s no left side.”

Next, the level of Heh of YHVH: Binah

“How good is our portion / CHeLQeinu” – (Mishnah Sanhedrin 11), “We all have a share / CHeLeQ in the world to come”, and “there is nothing but You, our redeemer,” — in the “Brains of Greatness” (Chochmah and Binah)

Now, the level of Vav of YHVH, Zeir Anpin

“How delightful is our lot/destiny,” — the qualities of blessed and cursed

Last, the level of final Heh of YHVH, Malchut

“And how nice is our inheritance,” which comes to us through netzach, hod, yesod into malchut, of the patriarchs and the matriarchs, gratis, without any effort on our part.

The reason why it says that an Enosh, a destitute person, is obligated to become intoxicated is because the whole year s/he always has a sense of a lack, of being deprived of something. But on Purim, the rabbis say, (Jerusalem, Megillah 5, 1) “Anyone who holds forth his hand is to be given without question,” and on Purim one is to send presents and to give gifts to the poor, (cf., yalkut shim’oni mishle remez 947), and destitute. Out of this moment of generosity, the distinctions between blessed and cursed diminish until “[one taps into] “the head that knows not and that knows itself not” (Zohar III 288), i.e., until objective possibilities and the knowledge to inform become like subtle fragrances of haGORaL / the lot (GORaL an anagram for GeRLamed vav), the Lamed vavniks (36 saints) that are required for that time.  For embedded in the lot is knowledge that gets sorted out through the lot whether to do a thing or not to do it. 

Casting of lots means not knowing the outcome before the lot is cast. It calls for being in a moment of doubt. And as the Baal Shem Tov taught us, Purim is in a relationship to Yom Kippur – (This latter can be read as Yom k’Purim, a day like Purim). (Leviticus 16:8) On Yom Kippur a lot was cast on the two goats, both being of equal perfection, one of them to be offered to God and the other to Azazel. Before the lot was cast it was not clear which one was to be offered to God and which one to Azazel.

And this business of lots suggests the immensity of alternatives.  (Study Gittin 48a, tosafos “Had R’Yochanan not said,” and you will see that there are many possible courses that we may navigate from the immense possible outcomes.)

The intoxication of Purim takes us to that place where, for a moment, it makes no difference to us whether people will consider us blessed or cursed. And if, God forbid, we seem to be as one who is cursed, we can take comfort that without Haman, no Purim and no celebration.

This is the same thing as Yom Kippur‘s T’shuvah, turning to God, out of love, (cf, Yoma 86).  T’shuvah from love, (as opposed to T’shuvah from fear), has the effect of turning even acts of intentional evil into merits.  And on Purim, the same result comes about through the “intoxication.”  If  one is in a kind of peril [having committed questionable acts], now one can sweeten the matter and turn the world upside down (cf., Esther 9:1), and one can improve oneself through giving Tzedakah, gifts to the poor, presents to one another and wearing masks. In this moment of intoxication one recognizes that every face and facet of this world is nothing but a mask that God wears behind which God is hidden as in the Scroll of Esther (which comes from hidden / nistar).

One Response to “For Purim (conclusion)”

  1. Chaplain Gloria Krasno Says:

    And so Purim answers that lingering question:
    Why is there Evil (say Hamen) in the world?

    Rejoyce! and re-juice!
    and with the Yogis . . . stand on your head!


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