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In this video, Rabbi Fohrman begins to explore the true meaning of the holiday of Purim, and introduces the overall theme of the course and of Purim itself: Memories.
Purim is an astounding holiday, and when I it’s ‘astounding’; I mean it’s astounding that we made it into a holiday. If you take a look at the Megillah, it seems to chronicle a victory that was, for lack of a better word, political.
Mordecai and Esther managed through death political maneuvering to save Jews who would have been threatened with a national holocaust. Now, that’s a great thing! But you kind of have to ask yourself “what are we suppose to take out of that? Is there anything spiritual, is there anything meaningful that you and I, two millennium later, is suppose to take out of that?” It doesn’t seem like we are actually learning anything in terms of how to be better human beings and we normally associate religion with that - we’re trying to figure out how is it we’re supposed to live our lives.
Now, there is a kind of conventional answer to this; at least an answer that I often heard growing up, and that is that, one of the messages of Purim is that God works behind the scene. And that is really where the spiritual meaning of Purim lies. And in fact, it is true that you do see God working behind the scene that all of these events seems to conspire, all of these coincidences kind of come together and seems to conspire but they are not really coincidences.
Mordacia just happens to overhear the plot of the two assassins against the King and he happens to not be rewarded right away,and his reward is delayed until later. And then one night, the King happens to be unable to fall asleep and asks for the book to be opened, and the book just happens to be opened to the right place to read about Mordacia long forgotten deeds and who should knock at the door just at that moment? But it just happens to be Hayman asking for permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows and all of these coincidences kind of conspire together to eventually come to create this great salvation for the Jews and it’s really God working behind the scenes. And maybe that’s the spiritual message of Purim.
And while I do have some sympathy for that, I come back to this question “what does it means for us?” You see, that’s not so much what it means for us; it’s what it means to God. You could argue that there is theological meaning to Purim in the sense that we learn something about how God operates but that’s very philosophical, that’s very abstract. Is Purim just about how God runs the world or is it about how I am suppose to run my life? What I want to suggest to you in this series of videos is that it’s really about how we are suppose to remember.
The notion of Purim has always been bound up with the idea of memory. Purim is the one holiday, which according to the Megillah itself, will never be forgotten. V’zichram lo-yasuf mizaram, “ all the holidays”, according to the Talmud, “ will eventually be forgotten in someway shape or form, but Purim will never be forgotten.” It’s a holiday in which we commemorate a battle against Amalek and of course we are enjoying in the Torah never to forget what it is that Amalek did to us. We all remember. Part of what makes us human is to remember . Purim, I think is telling us something intensely important about how we should remember. I want to try to show you how that's so in the coming videos. I will see you when we come back.
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