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Purim's Real Joy
Mom with a View

Purim's Real Joy

Recognizing that everything -- even experiencing the pain of a terrifying illness -- is from the Almighty.


During the month of Adar, the Talmud tells us, we increase our joy. This sense of celebration culminates with the holiday of Purim, with costumes, Megillah reading, drinking, eating and the exchanging of gifts of food. Who doesn’t smile at the young girls dressed as Queens Esther or Vashti or the little boys acting as Mordecai or Haman? A little liquor, a little feasting – what could be more joyful?

Except that’s not really the source of the happiness. It’s not based on frivolity and laughter. It’s not based on sumptuous food and a good Scotch. It’s joy founded on a deep insight about the world, on important understanding of the Almighty’s role in our lives, of His constant providence.

When we drink on Purim there is only one goal (and it’s not what you think it is) – to drink just enough to remove the barriers we’ve erected in our minds and psyches that block us from seeing the Almighty’s presence in the world. This is particularly true in situations that appear negative, desperate, painful or hopeless. Those are the moments when we are the most blocked, when we retreat behind our blockades. Those are the times we most need to peel back the layers and recognize that everything is from the Almighty and it is all in His hands.

The true lesson of Purim is that everything -- the seemingly good and the seemingly bad -- are one; they both stem from our perfect Creator. It is this realization that brings us joy. It is the recognition that everything is exactly as it should be, that there are no other forces at work, that allows us to accept our challenges with true joy.

All the commentators point out that the Almighty’s name is not mentioned once in the Purim story. At this bleak moment in the Jewish people’s history, He is behind the scenes, pulling the strings, turning sorrow into joy, revealing the meaning of our individual and collective travails.

This year, as I confront the medical challenges facing a loved one, I haven’t felt in the mood to celebrate Purim. Seeing and experiencing the pain of a terrifying illness, I haven’t been able to access that joy. I feel inclined to cancel all but the most obligatory of Purim activities.

But I know that’s a mistake. I know it actually misses the whole point of the day. This situation, too, is from the Almighty. This struggle too, is part of His plan. Although the curtains remain closed and we can’t peer behind them to discover the ultimate meaning, it is a fundamental tenet of our belief that the Almighty is in control, that there are no other powers.

We need to invest our experience of Purim with exceptional fervor on the years when it is hardest. It is the teaching of Purim, it is the relationship with the Almighty, it is the deeply internalized understanding that this too is good that will sustain all of us during our struggles. And that’s something to celebrate.

February 21, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 16

(16) fay, February 28, 2010 7:10 PM

i just lost my wonderful husband after his brave fight with cancer. He was only 61 (going on 31) and we have two girls 16 and 11. I feel your pain and stress and crazy thoughts (yes i had them too) but I am thankful to Hashem for the wonderful 18 years I had with him. Never miss an opportunity to express joy and happiness and don't for one second think that your positive energy doesn't channel positive healing energy to your loved one. It will also channel back positive energy to you, to give you strength and open your heart to accept the love from your loved one and your friends and family around you. Be aware of all the Kiddush Hashem that all those around you have taken upon themselves and this will give you strength. I wish you all a refuas hanefesh and refuas haguf and love love love.

(15) Elana, February 25, 2010 5:27 PM

To #9

I am so sorry of what you are going thru; I too, am faced with an illness now, and with divorce, and who will take care of my children if I am not around. Certainly not my ex, who is a gambler and an alcoholic. But, I figure like this...the moment a person is born they are faced with death...sooner or later it will happen. Do you know, just a acouple of hundred years ago, people were considered old if they were only 40? Children died left and right; it was a part of their lives. Now we have immunizations and medications and technologies to enable us to live longer and actually find out what we can die from. Yes, it is unfair, and terrifying. But what do we really know of G-d? His mind is not like our mind. At least we lived as long as we did. I am glad I lived; even if it is to experience a snowfall, or a sunset; to be a mother to three great kids. Just to be alive, to have an education, to be able to think, not to be hungry every day like some other people are. If there is life after death, I will say, "wow, what a ride that was! What an amazing experience."

(14) Anonymous, February 24, 2010 1:31 AM

may God grant your relative a refuah shlaima. in the merit of your outreach to fellow jews, He should have mercy and send a full salvation. thank you for your helpful words and a purim sameach...

(13) ruth housman, February 24, 2010 1:02 AM

get well cards

it seems for me, a week so far of sending out get well cards to dear people who are undergoing operations and who are also ill with different medical problems. I took a cup out of the washing machine today and the words on it were JOY, and I didn't connect until now with this very piece of yours, which I deeply feel is so true. It's hard to be happy when people around us are suffering, but yes, there is a purity and a joy to this holiday, Purim, and I think in bringing joy to each other, as with cards, as with smiles and the love we can give, it's contagious and even within what's dark, there is light, and we can bring those, as best we can, who experience a dark day, some light. Comedy as we all know, humor, is THE best medicine and it's another word that is also within the meaning of light itself!

(12) Ann, February 23, 2010 10:03 PM

Good timing

This article was most timely for some of the challenges I am struggling with right now. Thank you. May your loved one have a speedy recover and may the light of the final redemption shine forth, when we will all clearly see the good in everything.

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