With the festival of joy, Purim, only a few days away (it begins on the eve of 11 March), we turn our attention to the themes of this festival – giving charity, doing acts of kindness, mascarading in fancy dress, reading the Scroll of Esther, to name a few.
The Talmud states that from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar, we should increase joy in our lives and, I might add, increase joy in the lives of others.
Why do we mascarade in fancy dress on Purim? One of the explanations is that during the period before Purim, we have a chance to explore the different ‘masks’ we wear or the different roles we play in our lives: the child, the parent, the aunt, the professional, the friend, the music-lover, the sportsperson… (add your own to this list).
Each role we play is another opportunity for our inner light, the light of our Neshamah (Soul) to shine and be expressed in this world.
The Ger Rebbe of the 18th Century, Eastern Europe, explained in his book, the Language of Truth, that our Neshamah is a principle of divine energy that needs the vessel or the structure of various roles in our lives so that it can function and be expressed.
This festival is not only a one-day event, but also a process of engagement over a number of weeks preceding the festival. For Purim, we are invited to be mindful of the different roles we take on in our lives, how we switch from one to the other and reflect on how our inner unique divine light is activated by these masks or hats we wear in our lives. This is a time to get to know the different roles more deeply, and in that way, get to know ourselves and others better.
In the next few days consider which roles you play in your life, how you feel when you are in those roles, which people you associate with, what clothes you wear, and how different it is with each role you play in your life. Also, notice this in others. Notice the different modes people close to you have. Notice how people are different when they are in different roles or functions or modes.
Be mindful of how you connect with people close to you and how you click into certain roles with certain people. In yourself, consider some parts of yourself that are still waiting to be expressed, the artist, the traveller…
This is connected to the idea that God, who is infinite and unlimited, is contained within different vessels or modes. The Infinite One, created and constantly creates formed beings and structures through which It can be expressed. In this week’s Torah reading, we read how God gave Moshe instructions on how to build the sanctuary and how that sanctuary is designed to receive the Divine Presence within it. In as way this is understood to mean that the infinite light is looking for a place to be contained.
Building on this idea, the Sages state that each person is a temple in which the divine dwells. We express that divinity through the different aspects of our character and the roles we fulfill. Some aspects of our lives feel more connected to that holiness than others. A blessing in the lead up to Purim is that we might see ourselves and others as vessels for holiness and be able to bring that divine energy even into the various mundane activities we perform in our lives, every moment being an opportunity for compassion and clarity.