Sunday, February 25, 2018

Heaven On Earth

"Says Rava: A man is obligated to drink (on Purim) until he doesn't know the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai" (Megillah, 7a).

Here we are, celebrating the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people, wherein the evil Haman and his supporters are killed as the saintly Mordechai rises to power, and the way we celebrate is... by getting too drunk to recognize the difference between the two? Granted, it's not unusual for people to get drunk at a party, but this is supposed to be the spiritual opportunity that the Ari'zal says is greater the Yom Kippur! (The Ari'zal famously says Yom Kippur is called "Yom HaKippurim" in the Torah because "Keh-Purim" also means "like Purim." In other words, it approximates Purim in its greatness.)

The answer follows my previous post. On the inside, we know the external world we live in doesn't really reflect what we know inside to be true. Enjoyments are temporary and weak, people are given credit they don't deserve, and there is even evil in the world. 

At the same time, we have this need to build and grow, actualize our potential, and tell right from wrong. Some philosophies attribute this to "ego." Not so in Judaism. The same אני, the "I" that senses the strangeness of our existence also demands that its reality be actualized and honored. The same thing that says we live in transition also says we should have a home.

Inorder to bring that world that is beyond externality here, we need revelation. The Torah that was revealed at Sinai is called תורה מן השמים, Torah from Heaven. The word שמים, heaven, can also be read as the plural of the word שמ, which means "there," or a destination. שמים is the "place" of destinations or ends. The word for land or earth, ארץ comes from the word רץ which means to run. The Jewish soul that doesn't ignore the inner conflict of transience and permanence demands that there be some way of having heaven on earth. That is Torah. The only way we can be in a world that is constantly running and vanishing and still have the permanence of true existence.

But why can't we just skip to the true existance part and forget about this whole existential conflict? Why did G-d make us this way?

This world is a transition to the world to come. But the world to come is not just a removed concept or fantasy - it is a world of Truth where nothing gets in the way of experiencing who you really are. Eternity means it doesn't depend on circumstances or time - everything just is what it is essentially and that's it. It's purely experiencing the destination. But it has to happen through this world. Like it says in Pirkei Avos (4,22), "one moment of returning to reality (teshuvah) and good actions in this world is more beautiful than all of life in the world to come, and one moment of serenity in the world to come is more beautiful than all of life in this world." Only by creating ourselves in this world can we experience the Truth of who we have become, or of our becoming. But those who are attentive can sense that supernal light seeping through special people even here in this world aswell.

The happiness of Purim is accepting Torah out of love. It means appreciating that the Torah gives meaning to a transient world and that we're here to be a part of something way bigger than what we can possibly understand right now. So we drink until Haman and Mordechai, good and evil, external falsehood and internal truth, all blend together until the life that reaches beyond all of it shines through.     

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