April 20, 2024
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April 20, 2024
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לזכר נשמת חו”מ נטע יצחק בן אלכסנדר

When I was a child, hanging in our home was a needlepoint my mother made that had a picture of a house, and underneath the words, “Home is where your  is .”

I had seen it a million times but never realized what it was really saying. Until one day I asked my parents what it means that “home is where your is.” After they laughed, they explained that the heart symbol was supposed to be read as if it said “home is where your heart is.” I replied by asking, “What does it mean ‘home is where your heart is buggy’?” They laughed again and explained that the little buggy was just there for design and wasn’t meant to be read, unlike the heart, which was meant to be read.

After that, “home is where your is” became a family joke, and a story my parents love to tell over.

We all have moments in life when we fail to recognize the deeper meanings of things around us. Sometimes it can be a seemingly nonchalant comment or gesture that has much deeper significance and meaning than realized.

As a therapist, we are trained to try to be in tune and to recognize such nuances. We try to interpret and externalize the hidden subtle, often subconscious, meanings.

I would venture to say that regarding many religious matters we fail to recognize the deeper subtleties and meanings behind our rituals and customs. Perhaps there is no greater time of year when we miss the nuances and depth than during the holiday of Purim.

I often ask my students who they think wears the best costume on Purim. After they excitedly suggest their nominations, I tell them that in my opinion—which incidentally is always correct—no one wears a better costume than the holiday of Purim itself!

Purim masquerades as a simple day of fun and gaiety. While it’s unquestionably a day to enjoy on all levels, we shouldn’t miss out on the deeper meanings and lessons of the day.

It’s worth taking a few moments to contemplate some of the less-recognized yet vital messages of this beloved and joyous holiday. Although each idea requires its own individual focus, we will briefly list some of those timeless ideas:

Purim is a celebration of Kabbalas HaTorah. The Gemara relates that although there was a modicum of coercion at the time of Kabbalas HaTorah at Sinai, at the time of the Purim miracle the nation joyously and unequivocally reaccepted and rededicated themselves to Torah.

Purim marks the victory of good middos (character traits) over bad middos. Achashveirosh was driven by paranoia, lust, greed and power. Haman was consumed with hate, hubris, and pursuit of glory and power. Their evil plans were thwarted by Mordechai and Esther who personified love, devotion, selflessness, faith and humility. It’s truly a story of good guys beating the bad guys.

The focus of Purim is horizontal as well as vertical. The story of the Megillah reminds us that Hashem runs every facet of our lives. We give mishloach manos to build our connection and friendship with our peers, neighbors and friends. We also give matanos l’evyonim to those lacking and underprivileged. Finally, at the seudah we reach a state of inner and outer joy, rejoicing in who we are and accepting that we are beloved and special.

It’s not always realized that the immediate consequence of the Purim miracle was the rebuilding of the second Beis Hamikdash. When Achashveirosh came to power, he immediately stopped the recently begun reconstruction of the Beis Hamikdash. After his death, his son and successor, Darius II, commissioned the recommencement and completion of the rebuilding.

Purim serves as a chizuk for us that we too will soon merit geulah and the ultimate rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, even if now it’s impossible to see how.

Purim is an incredible day of tefillah. Purim begins with Ta’anis Esther to remind us that the miracle was the result of our prayers during that desperate time. Sefarim reveal that on Purim the gates of prayer are wide open, and prayers can accomplish incredible things.

Appreciate the blessings of life, health and family while we have them. Haman’s evil decree instantly turned over the world for the Jews. His undoing and destruction were equally quick and unexpected.

In life, things can change so quickly. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted.

Perhaps most poignantly: Never, ever give up! At the time of the Megillah, the Jewish situation was worse than bleak. They had no one to turn to and nowhere to run. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, they maintained a sense of hope and persevered.

Purim reminds us to peel back layers and see beyond the surface. In a superficial society that message is invaluable. On Purim we recognize that there are many masks hiding the truth, most prominently the truth of the Divine Hand orchestrating every facet of the world and our lives.

Home is unquestionably where your ____ is. It’s up to us to decide what symbolism we insert there.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice, as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments Rabbi Staum can be reached at 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivating speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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