Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dramatic Twist

The gemara טענית כט says that just as we reduce our happiness when the month of Av begins, we increase our happiness when Adar begins. Oddly enough, Rashi says that we celebrate not only the miracles of Purim that happened in the month of Adar, but also Pesach, which is in Nissan. Why is Adar a time for celebrating Pesach? Rav Moshe Shapira זצוקלל explains that Purim is the אחרית, the end of Pesach. Pesach was full of revealed miracles that set the stage for the existence of a nation beyond the limitations of nature. But that reality was not sealed until Purim, when we saw a shakespearean drama on steroids, hidden miracles upon miracles, within nature, that saved us from destruction.

The word אחרית is used in seemingly very different ways. On the one hand, אלוהים אחרים means other gods, referring to idol worship, and the Tanna who infamously used his Torah knowledge to go against the Rabbis is called אחר. On the other hand, the coming of Moshiach is called אחרית הימים, the end of days. The point that they have in common is that אחר means something that is secondary to the primary thing. The Tanna is called אחר because he made his external knowledge, which is supposed to be secondary, into the main thing. Other "gods" are really just powers in the world that don't have any dominion from themselves, a small part of the army of the One director of all the powers.

אחרית הימים doesn't actually contain a new idea - Hashem revealed how he directs the world on every level through the exodus from Egypt. What it does do is it brings that reality into the lowest places. Much like יעקוב  came out of the womb holding on to the heel, the עקב, of his brother Esav, trying to bring the Yud, which represents thought, all the way down to the most physical part of the body. Expressing ideals within a physical existence is the purpose of world history, and the culmination of that is the kind of hidden revelation we experienced in Purim. That's why Purim story is such a dramatic twist - it reveals the light from within the darkest place.

Following my previous post, I would like to suggest that the proliferation within secular thought of moral relativism sets the stage for exactly this kind of twist. Philosophers cringe at the logical problems that arise when you try to consistently argue that different moral perspectives are correct even when they blatantly contradict each other. At worst, moral relativism is a way of justifying doing whatever you want. But a more careful look shows that the ideology of relativism surfaced amidst an increasingly un-empathetic, technological world, where universal standards and public eyes invade privacy and psychological stability. Its proponents are moved in part by empathy and individuality. In short, the voice of moral relativism, has a genuinely moral ring to it, despite its untenable logic.

If moral relativism is an emphasis on the individual world, an internal world which is not subject to universal standards, not even logic, it may be the עקב that is coming to be united with its Yud. Perhaps the corresponding idea that is to come out from the Torah world is that the personal בית, which is perceived as something independent of the Higher reality, is our generation's goal.

1 comment: