Thursday, March 16, 2006


Purim is not only a fantastically happy Yom Tov; it also is an eye-opening one. It sings the praises of the Jewish people, if only one is listening.

Here’s how you can attune yourself to hearing this message on Purim: Go around raising money for a pet cause and you can only be amazed at the response. Though some may complain that Purim fundraising has gotten out of hand, Jews still respond. People sit in their homes and write check after check for tzedokos of all kinds. The doorbell doesn’t stop ringing, groups continue prancing in, and the money continues to flow.

Young, idealistic people plead their causes with serious eyes and heartfelt words. They can’t take no for an answer. They have no idea how many checks you’ve written that day, they have no idea how much you have at your disposal, nor do they care. It’s none of their business. They are out to raise money for a good cause and ring in a bit of Purim cheer while they’re at it.

There is no bigger source of cheer than to witness the generosity of spirit with which the Jewish people are blessed. They respond with their hearts, souls and pocketbooks when called upon to aid others in distress. The amount of tzedakah that people give on Purim and throughout the year is phenomenal.

Mi K’amcha Yisroel.

On Purim we feel it more than all year around, because on this day we know the meter is running. We have 24 hours to encompass so much; to be b’simcha and to be mesameiach. As we go through the day taking special care to observe its mitzvos, we meet new people, make new friends and re-connect with old ones. We are introduced to worthy causes and recruit others to causes we believe in.

We go from one address to the next, looking for converts to our charity before time runs out. We shlep our children from rebbi to rebbi and teacher to teacher with one eye on the road and one on the watch. There is so much to accomplish in just a few hours. The special simcha that permeates the day seems to grease the wheels; somehow it all hangs together.

Perhaps the challenge is to capture in our day-to-day lives the urgent sense of a one-time opportunity that we associate with Purim—the chance to do good, to increase and spread happiness and G-dliness in this world. Not only Purim—every day is a pure gift from G-d—an opportunity to grow, learn and rise to a challenge.

And just as on Purim we ran around doing the mitzvos hayom with boundless energy; just as on Purim we gave and gave and when we thought we were done we gave a little more; so we must stretch our material and spiritual resources every day. When we’ve pushed and pulled and extracted every bit of ability and talent we have in carrying out our obligations, we will merit the eternal blessings promised to the eternal people.

What is the connection between Purim and masks? Why is the practice of altering one’s appearance so central to the holiday?

Purim is a day upon which we put everything else aside and spend the day in revelry and high spirits. To do this, we must mask a part of our lives—the facets that are disappointing or painful or too somber. We subjugate these tendencies to the mitzvah of simcha and mishteh. For people who can accomplish this feat, simcha shines from them with a new radiance.

Perhaps through the influence of yayin they gain a new perspective on life. They realize that they can set aside whatever involvements are consuming them. Whatever pressures are sapping their attention and energy can all be put on hold, for at least a day. And thus they smile.

A person thus acquires a new face, a new perspective—a mask. The trick is to keep that mask on for longer than one day. The lesson of Purim is to hold on to that fresh perspective after the yayin has worn off and after the last mishloach manos has been eaten. Keep your priorities straight: remember what is toful and what is ikar. Remember that whatever you do, do it with a smile. On
Purim and all year round.

Ah gantz yuhr freilach.


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