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.

But in order to bring that reality about, 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. Having Torah from heaven is how we can have heaven on earth, the way we can live in transition in a way that is simultaneously transient and eternal. Torah is called a "path" because by doing what it says and making it our way of life it becomes our reality. With Torah, running the race is winning the race

Consider, if G-d needed things to get done in the world, He could just do them Himself. If He's giving us a to-do list, it's because there is something special about us doing it. And while we know just from within ourselves is that there has to be something that satisfies this deep yearning we have, and that that's what life is about, whatever satisfies this need is the kind of thing that has to come from beyond us (that's where the ego can get in the way for someone who feels he's the be all end all). 

The Jewish perspective is that we live in transition between this world and 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. It's where you live totally connected to your "to come," to you end goal, even as you are constantly growing. We are placed in this world in order elevate our natures by choosing good over evil and becoming partners in creation by creating ourselves, but the truth of who we become, or, the truth of our becoming, is something that can't really be contained in this fleeting world. We are here for there to be Torah from heaven on earth. 

The happiness of Purim is accepting Torah out of love. It means embracing that our life in this world is transient, but because it is transient, and because we live amidst externality and potential for evil, we can bring about revelation and we can be a part of something way beyond and totally eternal. So we drink until Haman and Mordechai, good and evil, external falsehood and internal truth, all work together to bring out our happiness and our true selves.  

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