The Everlasting Purim
Happiness – Guaranteed(?)
As Purim approaches, many of us are filled with a feeling of anticipation and excitement, looking forward to the simcha this special day can bring. However, after Purim, many often experience disappointment, feeling that simcha somehow passed them by.
There is tremendous potential in Purim day, and if utilized correctly, Purim can be a source of happiness that lasts all year long. As the Yiddish song goes, “A gans yor freilich” – joyous all year round! ! We need to understand, then – how do I get the most out of Purim this year?
The Ancient Happiness Theory
Our relationships determine our happiness. Nothing brings a person more happiness than having healthy, thriving relationships. On the other hand, a person who is lonely or suffering from failing relationships feels miserable, making happiness an unattainable dream.
There are three types of relationships: between G-d and oneself, between oneself and others, and the relationship one has with himself. The more one works on improving each of these three relationships, the higher the happiness meter rises. The potential is infinite – the sky is the limit!
There are four mitzvot on Purim: reading Megillat Esther, feasting at the seudah, sending mishloach manot and giving matanot l’evyonim.
Below, we will see how these four mitzvot correspond to the three types of relationships: the megillah is to rediscover our personal relationship with G-d. Mishloach manot and matanot l’evyonim allow us to build our relationships with others. The seudah provides an opportunity for us to reconnect with ourselves.
Hide and Go(d) Seek!
Megillat Esther is the story of our relationship with G-d.
The word megillah comes from the verb l’galot – to reveal. Esther means “hidden.” Megillat Esther is the revelation of G-d’s hiddenness. G-d stands behinds the scenes, and at any given moment might bring about the most ironic and unexpected scenario. Just as G-d was right behind the curtain, caring and loving every one of us, during the entire story of Megillat Esther, He is always there. He never leaves our side, even during the most bleakest of hours. Ever stop to wonder why we whisper our prayers? Perhaps, there is a profound lesson which we impress upon ourselves day in and day out.
The world is filled with clatter, loud noises and confusion. There are so many people with so many needs. If you ever went shopping in the Machane Yehuda Shuk, you’ll understand what I mean. If you want to be heard, if you want to be served in this world, you’ve gotta scream. Otherwise, you won’t be heard and you’ll return home empty handed. Not so with G-d. he is right by my side. He is right by your side. He hears my whispers and he hears yours too. Amidst all the clatter and confusion, He’s right there!
Many people have a misconception that G-d “plays favorites.” When things don’t go as they expected or hoped they would, they feel forgotten and forsaken. “If G-d exists, why did He turn His back on me?” they ask. Life can be so bleak from this perspective. When a person has such a worldview, even the light at the end of the tunnel looks to him like a train coming to run him over! If a person feels that G-d is “out to get him,” he may experience grief and hopelessness.
The Stubborn Dead Guy
Hashem is always present in our life, and no matter how many times we “give up on Him,” He never gives up on us. Yet, sometimes no matter how much Hashem does to show us He is there, we stubbornly refuse to see Him. The following mashal (parable) can shed light on this stubborn mindset: A man walked into a psychologist’s office and told the psychologist that he was positive that he was dead. The psychologist asked the patient, “Do dead men bleed?” The patient answered in the negative. The psychologist took out a needle from his drawer and pricked his patient’s finger, drawing blood. In shock, the patient said, “I never knew that dead men bleed!”
Unfortunately, many people cannot relinquish a negative belief even if proven false.
This year, instead of just listening to and learning the megillah – live it! Feel G-d “producing your life movie.” Our relationship with G-d can be improved by applying the megillah’s concept – changing our perspective and realizing that G-d is always with us, even when we don’t see His love and concern. Just internalizing that G-d cares for us brings tremendous happiness.
Imagine if you had a big picture on your desk of yourself shaking hands with the President of the United States. Every time you would see it, that memory would bring you happiness. Imagine the happiness of someone who feels G-d holding his hand throughout his whole life. The opportunity of the mitzvah of reading Megillat Esther is to internalize this Truth and develop a closeness to G-d that lasts all year.
Mishloach Manot and Matanot L’evyonim
There are two types of interpersonal relationships: there are relationships in which both people give to and receive from the other, and there are relationships in which one only gives and the other only takes. The relationships in which each person gives and receives are usually the ones that lastThe problem, though, is that people don’t like to give without taking or take without giving.
With the mitzvot of mishloach manot and matanot l’evyonim, the rabbis gave us an opportunity to give and take. Even a poor man is required to give. Even a rich man is expected to receive. This leaves everyone feeling they’ve had the opportunity to show their appreciation to others, while also not feeling they’ve been taken advantage of.
People who give of what they have are usually happy people. Therefore, Rabbi Noach Weinberg ztz”l used to point out that when a person becomes a giver, he is acting like a happy person; and when one acts like a happier person, he becomes a happier person (as the baalei mussar say, “chitzoniut m’orrer et hapenimiut” – external actions can awaken inner feelings).
Another reason it feels so good to give is because there is nothing more “G-d-like” than giving. Being G-d-like makes one very happy, since such a person knows he is fulfilling the purpose for which he was created. The giving and unconditional love shown on Purim puts people in a very positive, loving mindset, enabling them to rebuild and strengthen relationships.
Try to find those interpersonal relationships which are falling apart. There is no better time than Purim to rebuild them. Rebuilding and re-strengthening our relationships brings us much closer to true happiness!
Getting Along With Yourself
The mitzvot and customs of the seudah are all related to the relationship one has with himself.
Bringing Out the Booze – Not the Boos ( )
I have a confession to make – I don’t like getting intoxicated. It gives me a headache. However, on Purim, I take the opportunity to get to learn about myself. After a few drinks, all I want to do is dance, make my family happy and share ideas about the megillah to whoever is willing to listen (even if it is only the mop!). Getting drunk is getting down to your true self. It is a whole year’s work to make sure that who I really am deep down is not someone that I am embarrassed of!
The seudah is a time for enjoying a good meal, giving our bodies pleasure. Rav Moshe Aaron Stern, the former mashgiach of Kaminetz Yeshiva, once suggested that when a woman wants to have a calm conversation with her husband, she should first set the table. A meal somehow makes people calm. Probably, the idea that the body will be satiated with good food is a good way to calm the bodily emotions and wants.
Another idea of the seudah is a point Rashi makes in Megillat Esther (9:28). The megillah tells us that Purim is to be celebrated every year by “mishpacha u’mishpacha” – each and every family. Rashi explains that this refers to families gathering together to eat and drink at the Purim seudah. It is important to celebrate the most joyous seudah of the year with siblings and in-laws, with uncles and aunts, with parents and grandchildren. Even if one doesn’t get along with his family and would rather be with friends partying, and even if one enjoys peace and quiet and would prefer not to have any company at all, Rashi tells that one must look past the difficulties of the relationships and to be ‘heimish’ with his own family.
If G-d makes them your family, try to make the best of it! G-d wants us to refine ourselves through the difficult relationships that we encounter!
When I was a child and my brother and I would have have an argument, I used to put a cereal box between us at the breakfast table so I wouldn’t have to see him. Unfortunately, this does not really work for adults. One’s family is a big part of how one feels in his own relationship with himself. Until someone is able to get along with his family, many times he won’t ever feel comfortable with himself. This is all why the Seudah is supposed to be together with family – to improve one’s relationship with himself.
Clarity or Death
It is common for one to feel depressed when he is confused. Everyone has a long list of principles and beliefs and it is crucial that one organize his priorities and achieve clarity so that he can act accordingly. When one has failed over and over again to take control of his life, one stops trusting himself. Failure to prioritize principles and set appropriate goals can cause much grief. The most powerful tool to bring happiness is an effective plan for growth and achievement, and one cannot create such a plan until he figures himself out.
The megillah ends by telling us that Mordechai and Esther “kimu v’kiblu” – established and accepted – to commemorate Purim.
This Purim, we need to create our own “kimu v’kiblu,” by committing to organize ourselves properly and to build new goals, giving ourselves proper structure to live the happiest life possible.
If one can work on all three types of relationship – between himself and G-d, between himself and others, and his relationship with himself – he will feel tremendous happiness.
Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach!
In memory of Reuven ben Sarah