Thursday, March 16, 2006

293. Superfluous

I feel like I've emerged from a cave in some strange universe where all people do is chant, work, think about God, and eat tuna fish sandwiches (my staple when too busy for anything else).

Ancient sages wrote that when the Messiah comes, all holidays will become superfluous--except for Purim, a day when we're commanded to get so drunk and turned around that we can't tell good from evil. ("Turn it around, turn it around," says the Talmud, meaning that we need to read the Torah from all possible angles, and even backwards.) It's a strange idea for a religion, especially one so focused on ethical action. Maybe it means that since we can't understand goodness if we forget its opposite, Purim will persist as our reminder. Or perhaps that in a perfect world without evil, and no need to discern it from good, Purim will become a proof text--we'll try to be bad, but it just won't work. There are many more interpretations, all of which I need to think about for a few more years before I can begin to understand. I do know that Purim is taken very seriously by the rabbis at my synagogue. And we, the congregation, even while becoming part of the bizarre proceedings, are still a little too self-conscious to reach an equally high level of abandon. We know how to dance like crazy on Shabbat, no problem, but are much less successful at spiritually-condoned blasphemy.

I agree that it's good and necessary. We cry on Yom Kippur; on the day of its mirror image an opposite action, in a balanced life, seems to make sense.

(To be continued.)

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