Everyone knows that Purim is a time of simcha, or happiness, and of merrymaking, dressing up and giving gifts of food to our friends and neighbors, but there are also a lot of ‘secrets’ hidden in the day of Purim, too.
Here’s some things that you should be aware of, as we head into Purim 5777:
Secret 1: It’s hard to be happy on Purim
Part of what makes Purim one of the most challenging Jewish holidays is that on top of all the pressure to sort out costumes, mishloach manot, the festive Purim seuda, the matanot l’evyanim, and two hearings of the Megilla (all within 24 hours…) there’s also so much pressure to be happy while we’re rushing around like headless chickens.
The simcha on Purim does not come naturally, and Hashem does this on purpose. If we automatically headed into Purim feeling so happy and joyful, then we wouldn’t have a lot of motivation to pray for things to ‘turn around’.
Who needs things to ‘turn around’ when they already feel great!? So God fixes it that Purim is often a very difficult, challenging time internally, because that’s why we need Purim to ‘turn things around’ for us, and to lift our mood and spirits.
Secret 2: Your shalom bayit will get tested on Purim
If you read the Megilla, there’s a lot of shalom bayit issues going on over there. Achashverosh hangs his first wife, Vashti, for not showing up to his feast. Memuchan (Haman) tells the king to issue a decree having a go at the women for not obeying their husbands.
Mordechai has his wife Hadassah (Esther) forcibly taken away from him, and given to the King instead.
Esther and Mordechai initially disagree about the way to tackle the threat to the Jewish people.
Haman doesn’t listen to his wife, Zeresh, when she tells him to cool down and not go charging off to the King’s palace in the middle of the night – which is the beginning of his downfall.
To cut a long story short, there are shalom bayit issues going on all over the place on Purim! And some of that spiritual energy is inevitably going to show up in our homes and families, too. When that happens, take the high road and act like Mordechai and Esther who worked together for the good of the Jewish people, despite their disagreements, instead of like Achashverosh, (who went off the deep end and killed his wife), or Zeresh, (who encouraged her husband’s plots, which ultimately led to his downfall).
Secret 3: Purim is the highest day of the whole year, spiritually
It can be so hard to remember that, because there are so many seemingly ‘materialistic’ distractions going on. So much noise, so much food, so much drinking, so much entertaining, so much running around…
But the spiritual energy of Purim enables a Jew to transform all that lowly, materialistic stuff into the highest spiritual service of Hashem. Purim is a day when we can literally transform the darkness in our lives, in our hearts, in our world, into the brightest light.
Secret 4: Midnight (Chatzot) of Purim night is the single best time to pray for what you need
There is a Breslov tradition that Chatzot (halachic midnight) on Purim night contains the most sublime spiritual power of the whole year, when it comes to having our prayers answered.
Sure, it requires a lot of self-sacrifice to stay up that late, or if we’re already up, to take that precious time away from wrapping our mishloach manot or organizing the next day’s activities and meal.
But if you take that hour of Chatzot, and just go and sit quietly somewhere and talk to Hashem in your own words about all the areas of your life that you really want to see ‘turned around’ – you’ll see miracles.
Often, the best thing to do is try to make a list of those things before you get to Purim, and your mind is blank from exhaustion. Then, just sit somewhere by yourself, and say:
‘Tatty, God. Help me to really tap into the power of ‘turning things around’ this year! Help me to turn around my bad temper and my lack of patience! Help me to turn around the despair I feel about my finances / marriage / relationships with my kids / spiritual endeavors / fill in the blank. Help me to have the emuna that my life really is good, exactly how it is, and to be able to trust that the ‘Hamans’ in my life are as much your messengers for the good as the ‘Mordechais’.”
Of all the many secrets of Purim, this is greatest:
God wants to hear from you, and He wants to send your miracles and to grant your heart’s desires.
So take a break from the madness, set your alarm for midnight, and spend an hour tapping into this most sublime secret of Purim of all.
Rivka Levy is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She’s the author of several books on God-based holistic health with a Jewish twist. Levy made aliya from the UK in 2005, and now lives in Jerusalem.