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Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.

Is Purim an atheist’s holiday?

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Are you wondering what I mean by that? Well, look in the Megillah – do you see G-d’s name mentioned? In every book of the Torah, G-d is featured prominently. However, in the Book of Esther, the Megillah which we read on Purim , G-d is not mentioned even once!

Although G-d’s name is not mentioned in the story, we celebrate it as a holiday, thanking G-d for His salvation. We spend the day celebrating the fact that G-d saved the Jewish people all those years ago. This just makes it even more strange – we acknowledge G-d’s hand in the story but we don’t mention it at all!?

This strange fact teaches us an important lesson.

You see, the story of Purim is not about earth shattering miracles (like the ten plagues or the splitting of the Reed Sea). The miracle of Purim was disguised in nature. Haman tried to kill the Jews but his plan was thwarted. This was not because he was miraculously struck down by G-d, but through a series of “Palace Intrigue” type situations: unbeknownst to him, the queen was Jewish; the king “happened” to owe Mordechai a favor for saving his life years earlier.

No earth shattering miracles, yet miraculous nonetheless. However, to appreciate the miracle, you have to dig slightly beneath the surface. Therefore G-d’s name is not mentioned.

We can go about our lives without acknowledging G-d’s hand in it or we can appreciate the miraculous nature of our day to day life. The holiday of Purim tells us that although sometimes G-d’s role in our life may be hidden, if we scratch away the surface, we will reveal G-d’s role in our life.

One way to help this attitude along is by beginning to pay attention to G-d in our day to day life. Starting the day with the Modeh Ani is a great place to start. Click here to learn more about this short but potent prayer.

Shabbat shalom and Happy Purim! 

DIY Temple

686_6679_6Beis_Hamikdash_wood_Mehudar_Built12.JPGWe are commanded in the Torah to build a home for G-d. A Mishkan (tabernacle) was originally constructed by our ancestors in the desert, eventually being replaced by a permanent structure in Jerusalem, the Beit Hamikdash (The Holy Temple). The Beit Hamikdash was eventually destroyed, and then rebuilt, lasting in total almost 900 years.

How do we fulfill this commandment today? Do we have to go to Israel and rebuild the Temple? (That would definitely cause a political furor (to say the least) among our Arab brothers…)

Although the physical structure will be rebuilt by Moshiach, we have the ability to create the holy space that the Beit Hamikdash provided, in our life and home.

There were three primary functions of the Beit Hamikdash. 1) It served as the home for the Tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. 2) It served as a place to gather in prayer. 3) It served as center for giving and kindness. The poor among the Jewish people would be provided with funds to sustain themselves.

We too, in our homes, can emulate the functions of the Beit Hamikdash. By dedicating a fixed time to Torah study, we reflect the purpose of the Beit Hamikdash as providing a permanent home for the Torah(in the form of the Ark, which housed the Ten Commandments).When we incorporate prayer in our life, recognizing Hashem’s constant blessings, we reflect the prayer and sacrifices that were brought in the Beit Hamikdash. Finally, when we host guests in our home, when we prepare food to share with the sick or needy, we reflect the kindness and caring that the Beit Hamikdash effected.

This is the way we fulfill the commandment of constructing a home for G-d, by making our own home into a Beit Hamikdash. We live in a fast paced and highly stressful world, full of competition and strife. We need a sanctuary that sustains us not only physically, but also spiritually. “And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8). When we construct our home in this way, we provide a haven for ourselves and our family and a place for G-d “to dwell” in our life.

Defragmentation

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Does your life feel fragmented? Are you so stressed that you can’t nourish the important relationships in your life; your spouse, your children, and your friends? Are the interactions with your children limited to the constant instructions that you impart (clean your room, do your chores, listen when I’m talking)? How do we gather all the disparate parts of our lives?
This week’s Torah portion begins in a strange way, “v’eileh hamishpatim”-“and these are the laws.” The portion begins with the Hebrew letter vav, which as a prefix to a word means “and.” Strange, isn’t it? Why does a whole new portion begin with “and”?
The commentaries explain that when the word “eileh”-“these” is used in the Torah, it means to inform us that the following subject is a new idea, separate from the previous section. But when the word “veileh,” “and these,” is used, it means to connect the two ideas, the previous section and the following are connected.
In this case the previous section is the portion of the Ten Commandments, the ten statements that provide the spiritual framework for Judaism. The next portion (which is connected with the letter vav) is the logical legal framework for man to live in peace with his fellow. Lest you think that the two concepts are separate, the Torah connects them with the letter vav.
How does this help us heal from our fragmented existence? So often we think that our day to day life is divorced from our Judaism. We live and work, we raise a family and distinct from this life we also pay homage to our Jewish heritage – we celebrate some holidays, fast on Yom Kippur. But it’s almost as though it is two distinct existences; our life and our Jewishness.
The message the Torah is imparting is that in order to be successful in our life in matters between fellow man, we have to have a firm spiritual and G-dly foundation. This helps to unite the seemingly disparate aspects of our life. When we begin the day with Modeh Ani, we acknowledge G-d's gift to us –life. With this in mind we can start to see how the different parts of our life are all actually elements of the same underlying theme, all to serve the purpose for which we were created.
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