To many children, and increasingly, many adults, dressing up in costumes is the focal point of the (upcoming) holiday of Purim. There is a certain irony in this as there is no obvious connection between the holiday and wearing a disguise. Still, if we are willing to think a little creatively, there is a much to learn from this practice.
A friend of mine recently pointed out that I have a tendency to intellectualize things. He suggested that rather than letting myself feel things, I transfer my feelings into ideas. I realized the truth of his words when I read something I recently wrote. I wrote it because I felt pained by a particular event. Yet in reading what I wrote the pain was hardly there. There were some challenging points. I, however, was missing in the words.
You might recall that I missed my goal in the NYC marathon by only four seconds. There are many ways I could explain this, but the biggest reason was that I refused to run with some discomfort. I settled into a comfortable pace, a costume if you will, to avoid confronting the pain. Unwilling to feel the pain, I sacrificed the opportunity to achieve.
The Jews during the time of the Purim story were not unified. This almost led to their downfall. It was only through Queen Esther’s efforts to unify them, that they were saved. Three of the main practices of Purim; the feast, sending gifts of food to friends and giving gifts to the poor, revolve around unity. Joining up with others is difficult. There is the risk of rejection, as well as the chance that your differences might divide you. There is a tendency we have to “dress up” to cover up our differences. On Purim, we wear the costumes so that we can easily come together. Ultimately, we must come out from behind the masks and risk being ourselves. It is uncomfortable to feel pain. It feels awkward to put yourself out there, without trying to protect yourself. It is far more uncomfortable and awkward to lose yourself, to become the costume. Taking off the mask can be tough. Leaving it on is not an option.