One of the ideas I find most compelling in Yiddishkeit is the absolute comprehensiveness of it all. For a thinking person there is little room to believe that the Torah is anything short of Divine. As each layer is unearthed and examined, we are left with a greater sense of awe for the All Knowing Creator.
Particularly, I enjoy researching time and nature. (Those who have heard me speak over the last several years know this is a topic I always touch on.) Each month is imbued with its own mazal, and the Jewish calendar, unlike other lunar calendars, has a built-in solar correction that keeps each month roughly within the same season. These seasons (there are 6, according to Jewish tradition) are referred to throughout our seforim and have a deep spiritual significance. Let’s take a quick look at the month and time of year we find ourselves in and see what we can learn.
Adar is the last month in the last Torah season, which is called kor, late winter. The days are short, dark, and frigid. All of nature seems to be if not dead, then at least in deep hibernation. If we look at the year linearly, we are now as far away from Nissan as we can get. The redemption from Egypt, becoming the עם הנבחר, the clarity that we gained at קריעת ים סוף (all of these are recurring powers that we can tap into yearly)–are but a distant memory. It’s been a long, cold winter and we feel it in our enthusiasm and in our spirit. It’s the season of Kor, where we struggle to keep going.
Passion, heat, fiery devotion and conviction — these are elements essential to our survival as the Jewish nation. Conversely, a passive shrug, a lack of caring, and a ‘what can I do’ attitude would not have survived our exiles. A month away, in Nissan, we’ll see renewal and experience a new Spring as the world comes to life around us, reigniting our souls as well. But in Adar, we’re simply not there yet.
It is easy to understand then, the reason that Purim is Adar. Who better to represent our faded enthusiasm and our lackluster passion than Amalek?
Famously, the words we read in Parshas Zachor say: אשר קרך בדרך. As we know, Chazal explain that Amalek wanted to convince us that Hashem had abandoned the world to coincidence and happenstance.
Take the gematria of Yisrael. 541.
Subtract the gematria of Aish, the burning passion and awareness of Hashem that we are meant to live with. 541-301.
You’re left with 240, precisely the gematria of Amalek.
Contrary to what Amalek tries to tell us, we know that Hashem is deeply and intimately involved with out daily lives. We know that we should not inhabit the world of coincidence and chance, and that we must keep ourselves fired up in the service and recognition of Hashem. To do otherwise is to submit to Amalek.
In Adar, the last of the deeply cold months when we are naturally prone to getting less active, Amalek pounces in the opportunity to convince us to “chill out” with all that religion stuff, and tells us to stop trying to see Yad Hashem all over. Like the analogy of the hot bathtub that they cool off by jumping in, Amalek seeks to keep our fervor in Avodas Hashem cooled off.
The story of Purim spans several years. In any other nation where Amalek has been successful in spreading their ideology, only in hindsight would their historians have noticed the coincidental chain of events that led to the salvation of our nation. The miracle of Purim required us to be wide awake and paying attention.
Haman tells Achashvairosh !ישנו עם אחד
We, Klal Yisrael, were sleeping. In this time of winter, when all of nature was inactive and idle, so too was our energy and our passion for seeing Hashem in our lives faded and lethargic. We may have been doing the mitzvos but we were sleeping!
What did our sleep cause?
The Midrash Esther Rabbah says that the ישנו עם אחד refers to Hashem, who is called Echad. Hashem follows our lead, and we, so to speak, were sleeping on Him. Because of our actions, He too went into a hidden mode, sleeping if you will, leaving the world to run by rote and chance.
The first step of the redemption comes with the passuk that tells us “בלילה ההוא נדדה שנת המלך”. When Klal Yisrael woke up and started to do teshuva, shaken from their deep sleep and scared into action, the King, referring to Hashem (who is never called by name in the Megillah), was also woken from His sleep.
Teshuva in Elul is traditionally from Yirah, and awe from the Almightly King. The teshuva we did at Purim, and the קבלת עול מלכות שמים, is exponentially greater and holier because it is done with warmth and love. Thus, Purim can be greater than Yom Kippur. In Kabballa, Yom Kipper is called Yom Kippurim, literally translated as ‘the day which is like Purim’.
What allows the beautiful blossoming and life that sprouts forth in Nissan, if not the harsh rains of the winter that seem so terrible at the time? What allows the joy of reunification more than separation? How much brighter can our personal fires burn when we’re taken to the brink of disaster by our lack of passion? This is the strength we can tap into this Purim. As we take the opportunities presented, and try our hardest to move ourselves off of autopilot and into a world where we see Hashem peeking out at us in everything we do, we can propel ourselves to higher and higher levels. We need the winter to achieve the spring!
So…the perfect parking spot, right when you were running late? The perfect outfit that appeared out of nowhere after you were going through store for hours, the one that’s flattering and budget-friendly? The perfect words in a tough situation? All of those things that just ‘happen’ all the time? All are opportunities to reject the world view of Amalek and declare to Hashem that we are awake.
truly, clearly, and sincerely yours…
(I have to add that this leaves a glaring question of why we call Purim by that name? Why call a holiday that’s all about acknowledging that there’s no such a thing as coincidences by a name that means ‘lottery’–the ultimate game of chance and luck? Why name the holiday after the weapon they attacked us with? Maybe next post!)