Monday, February 23, 2009

Reality is a Mask- Purim Ponderings

Purim Thoughts: Reality is a Mask

Every Jewish Custom carries deep meaning. This applies to not only customs with a Biblical or Rabbinic Basis, but indeed all customs of the Jewish People- even those that are folk-customs. These customs (as long as they do not contradict Jewish Law) flow from the collective soul of the People and express fundamentally important ideas.

One of the common folk-customs of Purim in many communities is the wearing of costumes and masks as part of the festivities. One of the reasons given for this is that concerning the events Purim marks - everything was “disguised”: Events consistently took turns that defied the “common wisdom”
• The Jews had a secure and important place within the Persian Empire and all of a sudden that security evaporated like a morning mist and all of a sudden, they were faced with starkly utter annihilation.
• The intelligent, refined and pious Esther is kidnapped and forced into the mindless existence of the harem of a coarse and despicable King - a disaster by any measure –and somehow out of this sorrow emerges the key to salvation.
• Mordechai saves the life of the King and his deed is recorded and left to oblivion in some dusty tome of chronicles. This lost memory is restored at exactly the right moment to derail the gathering force of Haman's planned annihilation of our people. Had this been remembered to the King any earlier or later than that fateful night Mordechai, Esther and the Jewish people would now be a dim historical footnote.
• We cannot point to any instance of G-d’s direct involvement in this story, yet –clearly, the whole drama was scripted by Him.

This sense of wonderment prevails because we tend to see our world and its perceived cause and effects as a self –contained reality. We see politics, economics and all the forces of nature as the actual causes of those events and are surprised when actual history does not “play by the rules” and emerge as we thought it should.

However, the Purim-custom of Costumes and masks tell us the real story. All of the flow of life Nature, biology politic and economics are only masks and costumes. In a mask, we appear to be someone else until we find the person behind the mask. Our costume makes us seem to be someone else but only moves by the wearers movements.

On a deeper level the mask’s whole persona is really our own personality and being “filtered” through the mask.

By wearing costumes, we express the primary lesson of Purim:
Those forces which we imagine control destiny: the laws of physics, political machinations , military might, the massages of the media and their effects are all but a mask and glove through which G-d observes, directs, and controls all of the flow of Human history (without negating individual free will). Sometimes –as in the finale of the Purim story - the mask is removed and the costume is doffed.

So, as you choose a costume for Purim remember that which we experience as the reality of life and the events of history are but a mask and costume for the One (metaphorically of course - G-d has no discernable parts) Whose Eyes observe all, and Whose Hand that moves all.