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A Purim Dvar Torah: The Great Masquerade

 

We wear masks on Purim in more ways than one.   Everybody knows about the kind we wear over our faces, but few people realize that the Megilla, the book of Esther, is also subtly hiding something?   The melody with which we chant the Megilla is indeed a mask.

 

There is also a custom on Purim which is seemingly at odds with everything the Jewish religion stands for.   " A man is obligated to get drunk to the point that he does not know the difference between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman."   There are a lot of " -isms" that are part of Jewish belief, but, to the best of my knowledge, alcoholism is not one of them.   What an unusual obligation!   Get drunk!

 

We've all seen the ubiquitous bar scene in a movie, where the guy whose life has just been crushed pours out his heart to the bartender.   He seeks relief by escaping into alcohol.   In a very real sense, that is what we do on Purim.   Of course, leading rabbinical authorities are emphatic that the only obligation is to drink enough to become tired and go to sleep.   It is a mistake to carry it to excess.   Nonetheless, there is a high degree of escapism in the drinking we do on Purim.

 

That is because Purim is an incomplete holiday.   After all was said and done, the same king who had agreed to the Jews annihilation still sat on the throne of Persia.   Even though Haman was gone, the Jewish people's situation was still precarious.   The Temple in Jerusalem was still in ruins, and Jews were still at the mercy of the nations in which they lived.   We were very much in exile.

 

That is why we wear masks, in a struggle to show proper joy, even though inside our hearts are still yearning for a complete salvation.   God wants us to show joy for the small miracles, and to see in them the promise of greater miracles to come.   Thus, we do everything in our power to distance any discordant tones and bring out the happiness.   If you listen carefully to the melody of the Megilla, you will realize that it is in fact very similar to the Megilla of Eicha, which we read on the ninth of Av. That scroll describes the tragedy of the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people.   The only difference is that on Purim, we raise the melody up and give it a more joyous feel.

 

There is a powerful lesson in all of this. The great salvation of the people is really going to be the culmination of many little salvation is happening in all places and in all times.   Some of them are bigger, like the Purim story, and some are smaller, taking place every day in every corner of the world.   One small favor to a friend, one small assistance to a person in need, is a mini-salvation.   Once enough of the have been added up, the time of the Messiah is close, and the great, complete perfection of the world is at hand.

 

Let us all celebrate the " little" great miracles this coming Purim with all of our might and all of our heart.   I wish everyone a happy and safe Purim.