PurimBurst, 1994 / 5754
Sarah Yehudit Schneider

There is a real place that exists right now, on an inner plane, in the mind’s eye of the Creator, where Israel is a righteous nation, and every Jew a perfect tsadik.[1]  This is one of two core truths from which all knowledge derives.  Every insight (whether personal or academic, whether mystical or scientific) is a logically unfolded implication of these two axioms:

  • God is pure, simple oneness and “there is nothing but God.”[2] Material reality is nothing but Divinity in a state of concealment and contraction. This is the message contained in our tefillin: Know, Israel, the transcendent God is the immanent G-d; G-d is one.”[3]
  • The spiritual community of Israel is unique in its capacity to reveal the mystery of Divine oneness as an embodied fact on the physical plane. This is the message in G‑d’s tefillin:[4] Who is like your people Israel, a nation that is one on the earth.”[5]

Higher than wisdom, kindness, and beauty – higher than any other excellence – is the power to reveal oneness.  Our inevitable destiny is to bring this inner perfection into outer expression.  It cannot but succeed.  There are no other options.

The definition of Israel becomes the capacity to know and manifest what it means that G‑d is one on the deepest possible level.  At this bedrock of depth G‑d and Israel are monogamous soul-mates.

Yet any discrepancy between inner truth and outer deed draws Amalek like a fly to a wound.[6]  “Why should G‑d favor Israel with a special flow of light and blessing,” declares he to the heavenly court.  “Their deeds are no different from mine.  I thought HaShem’s seal was truth,[7] but this is not justice, it is nepotism.”  He prevails because he’s right.  His tongue is the flaming sword at Eden’s gate.[8]  Great potential is not a currency recognized by the gatekeepers at heaven’s door.  Only clean hands and humble hearts can enter.  There’s no room for ego and racism in paradise, even to its rightful heirs.

The Torat Emet[9] describes two ways of earning our Edenic inheritance of bliss and blessing, and even bringing some of it through into the present.

מסירות נפש- Ego death through self-denial and affliction.  We purchase our blessings with our blood, sweat, and tears.  We strive to please G‑d, restrict our pleasures to the parameters of Torah, labor in teshuva and mitzvot, survive life’s ordeals and bear its sufferings.  This is the mode of Yom Kippur,[10] and our basic service throughout the year.

מסירות נפש השכלית – Ego-death through the dissolution of all self-conscious thought forms.  Once a year we are allowed (commanded, even) to employ holy self-indulgence to explore this option.  All the Torah’s prohibitions still apply with one minor exception: While in general the Torah prohibits drinking to inebriation, on Purim it requires precisely that.[11] Wine numbs the rational mind and dissolves self-conscious ego states.  At the same time it stimulates our capacity for direct experience of transcendent truths.  On Purim HaShem meets us from above with a flow of light straight from Eden.  A certain intimacy of relationship with G‑d becomes possible on this day.

The idea is to use happiness rather than suffering as our passport into paradise.  The mitzvot of Purim all work to maximize joy (both personal and collective).[12]

The challenge is to be perfectly conscious and perfectly unselfconscious at the same time.  All attachment to self-image must go.  And yet, only if we also stay perfectly holy will Amalek allow us to pass.  May the intense lights of this day engrave themselves on our hearts and become a reservoir of profound faith and creative insight throughout the year.


[1] TB Sanhedrin 90a; Isaiah 60:21; Leshem HVS 6:5.

[2] Deuteronomy 4:35.

[3] Ibid, 6:4.

[4] The Talmud (Brochot 6a) enigmatically asserts that HaShem observes all the mitzvot.  While this anthropomorphic statement is obviously not literal, it teaches that a mirror relationship exists between us below and HaShem above.  The Talmud further discusses HaShem’s “mitzvah” of tefillin. While ours contain parchments asserting the deepest truth of G-d’s oneness, what could be the message in HaShem’s tefillin?  The Talmud answers that His contain an equivalent message of oneness:  “Who is like your people, Israel, a nation that is one on earth” (I Chronicles 17:21).

[5] I Chronicles 17:21.

[6] PurimThemes, p. 16.

[7] TB Shabbat 55a.

[8] Genesis 3:24.

[9] R. Yehuda Leib Eiger, Torah Emet, Purim תרל”ט.

[10] See PurimThemes, p. 17.

[11] See PurimLaws, p. 14.

[12] See Purim Laws, p. 13.

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