PurimBurst, 2000 / 5760
Sarah Yehudit Schneider

And it was in the days of Achashverosh…when the king sought to display the richness of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty, that he hosted a seven day long wine party.…The drinks were poured into gold vessels and no two goblets were alike and the royal wine was in great abundance as only a king can provide.  The drinking was according to law, without compulsion, for thus the king decreed upon all the superiors of his house, to obey the wishes of each person. (Esther 1:1-8).

And it was in the days of Achasverosh – Based on the letters comprising his name, Achashverosh denotes the Holy One Who contains the entirety of existence within Himself; from its final end (אחרית) to its first beginning (ראשית). Achasverosh (Achar vRosh): The One who preceded creation, permeates creation, and will endure beyond its passing. [1]

Because the King [sought] to display the richness of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his excellent majesty – Divinity, before creation, lacked nothing except, in some mysterious sense, the experience of actualized relationship, for there was no “other” with whom to relate.  When the Holy One brought forth creation He unlocked all the myriad possibilities of relationship, including the joy of mutual self-revelation, of seeing and being seen. By definition, the pleasure of self-disclosure requires a “witness” to its baring of soul.  For unknowable reasons, HaShem sought to actualize this dimension of relationship; “to display the richness of his glorious kingdom and splendor of His majesty”…to reveal His perfect oneness, the source of all good.[2]  HaShem’s self-revelation is also His gift to creation.  To behold G‑d’s beauty is to discover an ecstasy beyond all earthly delights.  There is no pleasure in the universe greater than knowing G‑d.

The king hosted a seven day long wine party – Judaism counts history from the appearance of Adam, a creature distinguished by its capacity to know the oneness of G‑d on the deepest possible level (called the 50th Gate of Understanding). Adam is not synonymous with Homo sapiens.  The Bible documents seven creation days which then recycle as seven thousand years of Jewish history beginning with the appearance of Adam.  Since “a thousand years are but a day in G‑d’s eyes,”[3] the entire course of history is a “seven day long wine party” hosted by the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He. We are now in the year 5760, towards the end of the sixth “day.”

…wine party – Wine, as a mind altering substance, is Torah’s archetype of enlightened consciousness.  Grapes are crushed to release their juice.  Fermentation begins with the addition of yeast (chametz) a symbol of ego and unrectified inclinations. Yeast feeds on grape-sugar and excretes alcohol, a mind-expanding drug. Eventually the alcohol poisons the yeast which now sinks to the bottom of the keg, joining the grape-skins (called klipot) another term for evil in Jewish writings.  The wine ages by “sitting on its lees,” the dregs of chametz and klipot, which now, contrary to character, release fragrant chemicals into the liquor.  A young wine is sharp and acidic, a mature wine is mellow with a rich bouquet.  The difference is the flavor absorbed over time from the sediment of klipot and chametz. The Talmud compares the whole pleasure of olam haba, its ecstasy of expanded consciousness, to “a wine that has been sitting on its lees from the six days of creation.” [4]

Drinks were poured into gold vessels and no two goblets were alike – Each life is a priceless vessel into which is poured a soul that is grape juice fermenting into wine.  No two lives are alike.  Each possesses an absolutely unique capacity to know G‑d and celebrate the love.  Gold is the most precious of metals, but its reddish tinge also hints to the “left side” with its dark knots of unactualized potential (called dinim).  These “red” flecks of chaos (tohu) are intense sparks of consciousness trapped inside the dregs of chametz and klipot. The soul “ages” by pulling these sparks out from the sludge and absorbing their intensely brilliant lights.

The wine was in great abundance as only a king can provide – There is no limit to the possibilities of expanded consciousness.  Since G‑d is infinite, one can never exhaust knowledge of G‑d.

The drinking was according to law (דת), without coercion HaShem designed creation to be His “other”.  Free choice is the necessary and sufficient condition of  “otherness.”  One who cannot choose freely is not a true “other” but a narcissistic extension of its master.

Free choice means that based on a spread of alternatives, each with its built-in costs and benefits, one selects an option based on the belief that its gains will be most worth its losses, that its cost-benefit ratio is the best one possible.  Belief is the key here.  Calculations such as these always contain “unknowns,” and once one is dealing with “unknowns” one has entered the realm of belief.

With each choice a person accumulates the wisdom of retrospect which enhances his judgement the next time around. Now he anticipates a whole other set of factors that were invisible to him before. His beliefs concerning the hidden costs and benefits of any given set of options correct themselves with each generation of data.

The greater the consistency between belief and reality (i.e., the law or דת), the more one’s decisions will consistently produce good and enduring results.  The more one’s beliefs clash with reality, the more one’s decisions will fail to accomplish their intended goals, pull unwelcomed consequences in their wake, and the good they do accrue will not endure.

In this sense the pleasure principle controls our drinking habits, not coercion.  Coarse pleasures leave nauseating side effects in their wake.  A connoisseur loathes their bitter aftertaste and holds out for finer wines.  Eventually all will agree that the only perfect pleasure is the joy of knowing G‑d.

For thus the king decreed upon the superiors of his house, to obey the wishes of each and every person – Our beliefs about pleasure sculpt our desires.  HaShem allows us to choose our path freely, based on our quest for perfect pleasure.  In this sense, we are the masters of our lives, for HaShem instructs the natural forces to obey our wishes (within the parameters of natural law).

If our will truly rules, than the most pressing task is to learn how to will. Unfocused aspirations lack potency.  “The King will answer us on the day we call”.[5]  Yet we must learn to call, not just with our lips and hearts, but with our bones and cells and even with the spaces between the molecules of our being.  When our call to know G‑d is this all consuming, “The king will answer on that very day…”.

HaShem sought to bestow pleasure on His creatures by revealing the magnificent splendor of his oneness.  When our minds, hearts and bodies finally decide that we, too, only want G‑d, our will becomes His will.

The relationship between G‑d and man consummates when a person’s authentic and spontaneous desires exactly coincide with HaShem’s will.  Intimacy occurs at the most core level of being for the highest and innermost root of soul (keter) is the seat of will. This is as close as any two can get, and the pleasure of their union surpasses all earthly delights.

The most powerful tool for refining will is daily prayer.  At least once each day speak this petition or something like it. You can even insert its request into the 7th blessing of the Amida, the prayer for redemption. Deliverance starts with liberation from the tyranny of false wills.

HaShem, please release me from all inappropriate and unproductive longings, fantasies, attachments, desires, needs, vulnerabilities, memories, fears, projections. Wash them through, burn them out. Let my deepest and most spontaneous desires always express your highest, simplest, and most joy-filled will for me.

This Purim may we fulfill the mitzvah of inebriation with HaShem’s “moonshine.”  May we taste the wine that has been sitting on its lees since the six days of creation.

[1] R. Y. Y. Y. Safron of Kamarno, Heichal HaBracha, Ketam Ofir, Esther 1:1.

[2] R. Moshe Chaim Luzzato, The Knowing Heart.

[3] Psalms 90:4.

[4] TB Brochot 34b, as interpreted by: R. Moshe Cordevero, Sefer Pardes Rimonim, Arkei Kinuim, chapter 10 (ד”ה  יין).

[5] Psalms 20:10.

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