Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Purim teaching: If I perish, I perish

   Behind the fun of Purim are serious messages, teachings for life.  Stuart Crown, Ahavat Olam’s treasurer, reminded me of one this morning.
   Esther has to face herself.  She is the queen, elevated to a position of great ease and comfort in the palace, far from want or worry.  To get along, all she needs is to go along.  Keep her head down.  Not rock the boat.  But suddenly, she is called upon to put everything at risk to take a chance – and only a chance -- at saving her people. 
   We each are called to face ourselves, possibly every single day.  Not as dramatically as risking our own lives to stop a genocide, but we are confronted with moral choices every day.  What are we willing to risk?  How much of our comfort?  Our position?
   Esther and Mordechai’s dynamics are instructive.
   At first, Esther objects that the risk is too great.  Insecure, afraid to jeopardize her privilege, “Not me,” she implies.
   Mordechai assures her that if not through her, the salvation will come another way.  What must happen will happen.  He is sure.  But, if she does not step up and do what she must, then she will indeed perish.  Perhaps it is precisely for this purpose that Esther has been elevated to such a position.  Esther gets it and takes on the task.  Knowing she needs support, she calls on her people to fast with her for three days of deep spiritual preparation and then she goes and does what she must.
   Here's what resonates for me:  How am I willing to use my position and my privilege to be an ally and advocate for those who are not so advantaged.  How much will I protect my apparent position by staying compliant, not using the opportunity my position affords me?  May I learn from Esther . . . 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

There is no mention of God in the Megillah, the story of Purim in the Bible. Some of us take that as a clue that Purim and the month of Adar are about finding the נס נסתר (nes nistar) – the “hidden” miracles -- in everyday life.

The next month, Nisan, is the month of Passover and points to the נס גלוי (nes galui) – the obvious, “visible”, i.e. supernatural miracles -- such as the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea that are in the Passover story.
Adar is the last month of our year and Nisan is the first.
The template seems to be that in the beginning of our journey perhaps most of us need something out of the ordinary to get us going, to open our eyes, to give us an inkling that there is more to this world than appears at first on the surface. In the book of Exodus, God is said to have said that the purpose of those supernatural Passover-connected miracles is to make us believe.
However, by the month of Adar, twelve months later, at end of the journey, by the time we have traveled far enough and have reached some kind of maturity and wisdom, we no longer need the supernatural and can find God in the normal, everyday experience of life.
I think that is a very good teaching and so am sharing it with you. It came to me from the brief teaching below from Bnei Yissachar as well as other traditional teachers.
Among the mystical secrets (in the book Megaleh Amukos) is:

“The angel of the month of Adar is named Avrachiel and there are twenty-five angels below him, all of them with names that indicate benevolence.”
It appears to me that this angel’s name in gematria is numerically equivalent to the word seder [“order” in Hebrew].
In Adar, there began the “hidden” miracles, those which are garbed in the natural order of the world, that is as it has been set in order since the six days of creation.

This is not the case for the "visible" miracles, those which upset the natural order, which are only temporay and occur only by the decree of the One Who is Blessed to change the natural order out of love for "His" children.
-- my translation
Bnei Yissachar is a two volume exposition in on the spiritual qualities of each month in the sacred cycle of the Jewish year written by Rabbi Tsvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov (1783-1841) and first published in 1846.  This excerpt is from page 130a.
Megaleh Amukos is a foundational east European work of Kabbalah by Rabbi Nosson Nota Shapira of Krakow (1585-1633) first published in Krakow in 1637.