Backman’s Corner: How can the message of Purim help us overcome the physical/spiritual divide?

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By Eli Backman
For Mitzpeh
@Mitzpeh

“Peek-a-boo!”

Ever play that game with a toddler? Every time you confuse them again…where did you go? Then, you move your hands and voila, there you are!

As they age, they learn that you are always there behind the hands. Just because they didn’t see you at first doesn’t mean you are not there.

Many will say that G-d plays peek-a-boo with the world. Usually, G-d conceals behind nature and the routine running of the world. But every now and then, G-d shows us a miracle, which is equivalent to moving your hands and voila, G-d is there!

A miracle is a moment in time when the regular functioning of the world seems to stand still and when that amazing moment ends, we go back to the routine running of the world as it always seems to be. When things get tough, we ask for a miracle because we don’t see it happening in a regular fashion, so we need to go outside the box and have a G-dly intervention in the world.

Yankel once told his friend that elephants are amazing in their ability to hide in trees. His friend said, “But I have never see any do that?” Yankel replied, “See how good they are at it!”

Ask a rabbi to talk about the holiday of Purim and you will hear the same story. G-d’s name is not in the Megillah, Esther means concealed in Hebrew and how G-d hid during that time. Then the Jews prayed, the miracle came and they were saved. So, we celebrate by also reenacting concealment. We dress up, we eat food where the insides are (or used to be) covered, etc. The lesson of Purim is to look behind the mask, like the toddler, and see that G-d is there and has always been there.

If I stopped writing here, Dayanu, it would be enough. That is an important message for each of us. G-d is there beneath the surface waiting for us to find and bring G-dliness into our own life.

This year on Purim, I want you to join me in looking at the message in a deeper way (no pun intended).

Most stories of Purim focus on who is behind the mask, who is under that costume.

This year, take a minute and think about the mask, the costume itself. You see in the story of our life the mask is a gift from G-d too; it is a medium on its own. It allows us to connect to G-d in a real way.

If there was no mask/concealment, there would be no way for us to have a real relationship with G-d. It would be like trying to enjoy straight sunlight without sunglasses. So, the mask is an important part of who we are and who we can become, as it makes the unreal more real for us.

A step further, we live in a world where physical and spiritual seem to each have their own space. Spiritual belongs in the Synagogue, prayer time, holiday celebrations and other G-dly acts; physical belongs at school, work, when playing or participating in other mundane/routine matters.

We need to overcome this divide, but how so?

(Image: Yoninah/Wikimedia Commons)

We realize that even the regular world and the life we live is holy. This idea is represented by the mask. It seems to be a break from the spiritual, but really, it isn’t. It too is a G-dly creation with a purpose in this world, a purpose so great that it is the message of the holiday of Purim! An attitude that even the routine acts we do, eating hamantaschen and saying L’chaim on Purim or whatever, like the mask, are holy too!

This message very clearly translates to our daily life throughout the rest of the year too.

Purim is on Spring break! Combine holiness and break! I can help you find a Megillah reading anywhere in the world! (or visit www.chabad.org/centers/default.asp) Challenge me! If I can’t find you a place to go, then a dozen Hamantaschen on me!

Happy Purim!

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