Purim | Looking Beyond the Smoke, Mirrors & Masks

Next week, the Jewish community gathers to enter the celebration of Purim, a small Jewish holiday falling this year at a painful time in our nation and the world.

This past week, 17 young people were murdered in another senseless barrage of gun violence; more bombs and explosives rain upon innocent victims of terrorism and war; the refugee crisis swells; we confront daily evidence of terrifyingly routine violence against women and African-Americans that rises to national attention; and we are told that billions of our country’s wealth that could fund hospitals and schools, social security and job training, Head Start programs and healthcare, must be siphoned off to expand the military and build a wall.

Our heart breaks.

Purim is a holiday of masks, a Mardi Gras of hidden realities garbed in false, even if attractive, appearances. It also is a story of heroism and evil undone by goodness.

Purim. The little holiday of Purim invites us to take on a big job. Purim asks us to look behind masks and find hidden truths. Purim challenges us to confront false appearances that show up our lives and in our world. What realities are hidden, and what lies hide them? Can lies become attractive enough that we are distracted from pursuing the truth? How do we even discern false news from true, when we are bombarded with lies?

Yet, by teaching us to look beneath outer appearances, to disclose hidden truths and confront evil with goodness, Purim goes further. We are tasked with an even more difficult challenge. More than identifying political lies and manipulations, with all their tragic consequences, Purim also asks us to look at our own lives and see how we hide behind lies ourselves. Whew. Now that is a challenging assignment.

And—just in case we might think that this is hard enough, Purim says don’t even stop there. Purim’s message demands of us that we confront the biggest lie of all. This is the lie of separateness: the false appearance that we, and everything, and everyone, are not connected. The falsehood that what happens to me won’t affect you and that what happens to you won’t affect me. This is the lie that pits “me and you” against “us and them.”

The false appearance of separateness can lead one to imagine that other people far away are not part of me, and that I am not part of them. Like refugees, immigrants, or the people in Syria, or Democrats or Republicans… or the family across the street or… miles away… or right next to us… or… or….

But we ARE connected. Deep in our hearts, we know it.

This is the deep truth to which religion is supposed to help us. “Re-lig” means to re-connect when we forget: A river of Oneness flows through everything and IS everything. This is the real truth. We don’t just interact, we inter-ARE! The pain and suffering of violence everywhere is our shared pain. And when healing happens and love flowers, this is our shared love.

In Torah, we are asked to love our fellow person as our self. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch said:

When we hear this it is as if we hear God saying:
“I am the personification of love.
I am the creating and vitalizing Source of all beings around you,

I have called them all, like you, to life and well-being.
Love My creation and all beings in it.
Rejoice in their well-being; see in each My work, in each person, My child…
I made you in My image so you can be the instrument of this love!
Don’t you see how this love is the finest flower of your mission?
What makes you above the stone and the plant and the animal? 
If it is anything at all, it is only that you, of your own free will, can devote yourself to the welfare of the world around you!

Let everything you do reflect your love for the world, all creatures and people.
Carry love in your heart; it is this which makes you a human being.”
                                                                                                          (Horeb. Chap.16)

So friends, let this message from ALEPH extend hope for us that we can stand together as ONE at this time. Let us be committed to work hard to end violence and expand love. Let us affirm the best and most loving truth that right now, we can take off our masks and see beyond separateness into a broader view of our real and powerful connectedness. Let us help our lives, and pubic policy too, reflect that truth. Amen!