Do you intend to drink a lot?

Wednesday, 20 March, 2019 - 4:44 pm


Last Friday, a beloved friend of mine whom I met through Facebook (and, to tell the truth, our friendship is still rather virtual) asked me: “Do you intend to drink a lot?” “I won’t drink a lot,” I answered, simply because I have a lot of work to do on this day. I meet a lot of people and do not have the privilege of losing my faculties. “So how will you fulfill the obligation of ‘until he doesn’t know the difference between Cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai’?” He persisted. I thought a bit. I admit that his question awakened something inside me. I didn’t have much time to respond, since he lives in Israel, and over there it was almost Shabbat and I was afraid that if I didn’t answer him immediately, he would continue to ask and would desecrate the Shabbat. After a moment of thought, this is what I wrote: “From my point of view, this is a spiritual matter. I have to try to take my conventions of ‘Cursed’ and ‘Blessed’ and reexamine them. This requires one to be humble.” He answered with a “Shabbat Shalom,” and I responded: “Umevorach”. And then, during Shabbat, I was left with the thoughts about what I had written.

Purim is a compact holiday. It possesses a very sublime spiritual power. But it comes and goes. It’s here for only one day, not for a week, like Pesach, and not for eight days, like Chanukah. It is not preceded by seven weeks of counting the Omer, and not even by ten days of doing teshuva. It comes with a bang and disappears after twenty-four hours. And I am thinking to myself: Am I really ready on this day to examine my “Cursed and Blessed”?

We live on this earth for many years. Everything seems clear and obvious to us. No questions, no answers. Who has time to stop and look? But then Purim comes and compels us to try to develop a different perspective. For instance, how does the world look through the eyes of a clown? And how does it look through the eyes of a king?

For dozens of years I’ve known what’s good and what’s bad, what’s cursed and what’s blessed. About what one says, “Great”, and about what one says “Oh vey!” Do I have the courage to attach question marks to these fixed ideas? According to the notions of the Western World, the main ingredient in the recipe for happiness is success in one’s professional life. Is that the truth, the only truth? For while we need a one-family house and a car in order to be happy, in villages in India or Africa you see people who will kept happy for a day by one apple, and for two days – by two apples.

Shall I go deeper? Do I have the courage to do so? It is possible that I will discover that things that I have strived for and even achieved are not really blessings, and the opposite is not really a curse? Maybe yes, maybe no, I’m not sure. It is possible that I will discover that what I’m doing is great, that the Cursed and the Blessed are in their right places. But one does have to check! To stop and allow ourselves to reach a state of “Until he doesn’t know between Cursed and Blessed.” It’s important. An honest venahafochu – flipping things over – for one day can bring us to a healthy venahafochu for many years to come.

Good friends of ours, who have acquired everything that the Western World has to offer in terms of advancing in life, were staying by us a while ago and said, “We did and still do everything according to the book. As you can see, we have been successful. But every once in a while we sit down at the end of another ‘good’ day and feel like mice in a laboratory, running around and around without having time to breathe.”

It’s wonderful to have friends like that; this way, I can talk about them and not about myself. For in order to question myself, I must be humble, as I have said already.


Happy Purim!!

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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