“Some people will remain with us on our journey when we change; others will not.” – Tzvi Fievel Schnee
As I change, from time to time, over certain periods of my life, the adage that was made known to me, personally, by the founders of PD Seminars, at The Haven in British Columbia has become realized: I was told that some people would draw closer to me, and others would move further away from me. It is as if I can add this statement to my “facts of life” list, if indeed I had a facts of life list to begin with, written down somewhere in my personal journal. Yet, I never even though about beginning a list like that until now. The reason that I have even brought up this issue, is based upon my noticing that every once in a while, my Instagram account loses a follower: it is as if to say, that it is a fact of life for those who post on Instagram and other social media platforms; of course, this could apply to any other social media platform. Although I cannot be sure, I make the generalization with some certainty, despite any statistics; therefore, I hope that what I have mentioned in this specific post of mine, may be of some consolation to others.
“Look to yourselves,” we would like to say to others, when we see others casting blame upon people, institutions, and society at large. Yet, for the sake of our own benefit, we should not avoid “looking toward ourselves.” The Ten Days of Awe, for all intents and purposes, are a time of increased reflection upon our faults, errors, and sins, with the aim of bringing these into the light, and asking forgiveness. Additionally, on Yom Kippur, our atonement is sought through even more intense prayer, and H’Shem willing, bestowed upon us, so that we can begin the new year with the renewal of our souls, having been cleansed through a sincere teshuvah. Thus, our inward focus on improving ourselves, is rewarded by H’Shem, in acknowledgment of our efforts to change from within; and, having been relieved of our guilty conscience, we can experience the joy of Sukkot.
“Let us search and examine our ways, and turn back to the L-RD.”
– Lamentations 3:40, JPSN
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Walking a Tightrope
To get from one place to another, walking a fine line along the way, is not only a task enacted by a tightrope walker. In fact, I imagine that I will not be the only one attempting a “balancing act” this Purim: balancing joy & sorrow, past & present, and religion & life. Perhaps, there is no need for me to explain, and you, dear reader, are already beginning to get an inkling of what I am about to say. Purim is quickly approaching; yet, my thoughts are preoccupied with a modern-day Purim story, wherein the archvillain is intent on destruction, despite the opposition.
Abraham Heschel advocated for a Judaism that is not wrapped up in its past glory, in spite of the prevailing circumstances of life. How can I celebrate Purim in a joyous manner, knowing that a real-life situation demands my attention, prayer, and support? To go along with Purim-as-usual would create a great disconnect between what is meant to be a living faith in touch with the challenges of life and the actual challenges that present themselves, despite the timing.
The war in Ukraine will not be put on hold for the celebration of Purim. This is the stark reality that many of the Jewish refugees who have managed to cross the border know. And the unfortunate ones, who for whatever reasons are still in Ukraine, sheltering in basements, or fighting to defend their country also know this all too well. The rejoicing in Shushan and the lands of Ahasuerus did not occur until after victory was procured for the Jewish people, who were previously threatened by the evil designs of Haman.
Today, rejoicing over this past victory will in all likelihood be diminished in light of the present reality. Whatever lessons we are able to glean from Purim, I would encourage that these be applied to our response to the events of today. Otherwise, as Heschel wrote, we risk ignoring “the crisis of today,” “because of the splendor of the past” (Heschel, G-d in Search of Man, ch.1).
“The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no territorial portion with Israel.”
Their presence was required at the Temple, even according to a designated rotation of shifts; moreover, they were scattered amongst the territories of the tribes, in order to attend to the spiritual needs of the entire people. Thus, in acknowledgment of their devotion to H’Shem, Maimonides speaks of the optional commitment that we may take upon ourselves, to become like unto “spiritual Levites.”