Purim was so much fun this year in the Beth Israel community! About sixty of us gathered in wild raucous abandon to celebrate Jewish survival, share a delightful meal, and to hear the annual reading of the megillah, replete with high-decibel grogging and booing of Haman. There were many delightful costumes, megillah making arts and crafts, a hamantashen beauty contest, cartoons about Esther and Mordecai, and professional face-painting. Many of us delighted in a night where we could “let loose” in our sacred space, transcending our normal limits, and enjoying a loosening of the rules and boundaries we normally perceive and experience in sacred space.
You may not have recognized it, but Purim is the formal beginning of our journey to Sinai, our journey to true freedom. That journey actually begins with Purim. On Purim we have a blast, but it takes only one night to begin to realize that if we always lived our lives in a world without limits and boundaries, a world of boundless drinking and eating, a world of chaos, we’d actually be living a life of enslavement.
It’s no coincidence then that this Purim holiday comes right before Passover, when we begin to think about the nature of our enslavements and the consequent move toward true freedom. We begin to think about Passover cleaning, not only of our houses but also our spirits. We become focused on the things that puff us up and make us feel haughty and over-confident in ourselves and our own opinions. How can we clean out some of that stuff from our spirits just as we remove the chametz from our homes?
Even with the advent of the Passover holiday, we haven’t attained complete freedom. Not until we realize that a truly free life is not merely a life that’s free from physical enslavement. We begin to realize that we are free in order to pursue purpose and meaning in life. For most of us then, the Journey to true freedom will not be complete until Shavuot – the time when the Jewish people learn how to travel and to camp together, moving together toward a common goal that only begins with our ongoing survival. Then we are truly able settle down at the foot of Mount Sinai and open ourselves to receive the Torah, which will provide the true freedom for our life’s ongoing journey.
This year I wish you a meaningful Purim-Passover-Shavuot journey!