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yvruT - yspoT

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Holidays » Purim » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


In Manhattan there is a mistake as large as the main lobby of Grand Central Terminal.

It is the painting on the ceiling of that lobby.

Beautifully painted across the entire ceiling is a detailed zodiac. While the details are accurate and stunning, the general picture is flawed. It is backward.

When noticing the mistake they also noticed that it was too big to fix. So they came up with a better idea.

They said it was painted from a unique angle: It is the way G-d sees it -- from above.

* * *

They come in all shapes and sizes and are celebrated in various ways. Turn around and there is another one at your doorstep. There is never a dull moment three hundred and sixty five days a year, and it’s been this way for thousands of years.

There are those you can count on, they’ll be here the same time each week. Others are less frequent but they’ll be here at least once a month. Then there are those that we anticipate as we approach their time. We clean our homes in its honor, or count the days until its arrival. We can purify our souls before its onset, or erect a shelter for its celebration. Some have come from Sinai, some have come from sages, but all have come to be part of our lives.

What does seeing double, blurred and maybe even backwards, have to do with happiness?
I am talking about the festive days on the Jewish calendar. The days that stand out and help make the rest of the year joyous and festive too. There is one day, however, that stands out even amongst the festive days; it is the joyous festival of Purim. A festival whose joy knows no bounds.

So important is joy on Purim that Jewish law actually requires one to be in a state of mind where he cannot distinguish between “blessed is Mordechai” and “cursed is Haman.” More shocking than that, at least to some, is that the Rabbis suggest and permit drinking as a means of arriving at that state.

Now while we all understand the need for joy, some might have difficulty comprehending the call for such extreme joy. What really tickles the sober mind is how blurring the lines, both figuratively and literally, between good and evil, equals true joy. What does seeing double, blurred and maybe even backwards, have to do with happiness.

I therefore suggest another L’chaim and henceforward you will have no problem with the exact calculations for what equals what. But for those who remain skeptical, let me try to explain in words what this ecstatic feeling of joy ought to bring about, and how we seem to get there. (But please say L’chaim; this gets tricky.)

Normal is relative. (One benefit of seeing things backward is that at least on Purim even your "relative" is normal.) Consequently, backwards and blurred are also relative terms. What then is the "normal" way for things to be! (Are you getting dizzy yet?)

We live in a world where it is easier to miss school than to actually attend. It is more pleasurable to begin smoking than to quit. It is simpler to get ill than to be cured. Immorality is more tempting than decent living, and G-d is questionable while we are more than certain of our own existence and personal needs. And this is called sober.

As if the natural state of things isn’t depressing enough, our inner conflict can easily add more strife. In order to break free of these inhibitions, we need to experience joy. In order to experience joy, we need our eyes to see what our soul feels. This is no easy task.


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Holidays » Purim » The Laws

A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Descendant of anti-Semitic tribe of Amalek and prime minister of the Persian Empire in the 5th century b.c.e. Schemed to annihilate all the Jews, and the holiday of Purim was established when the plot was foiled.
Cousin of Queen Esther, and Jewish leader in the 4th century BCE. Played a large role in saving the Jews after Haman, the Persian prime minister, plotted to exterminate them all. The holiday of Purim was established to commemorate this miracle.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.