Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Purim: The Meaning of the Jewish Identity

We have referred in this blog in various occasions to the Jewish identity as defined by the Torah, the book that attests the origin of the Jews. Our Sages say that if (God forbid) there was no Torah, the book that would replace it is the book of Esther because it parallels the events that the Jewish people experienced in the Torah's narration. In particular both books share the definition of the Jewish identity. Our Sages point out clear similarities between Moses and Mordechai, and though the Name of the Creator is never mentioned in the book of Esther, His Presence is evident in the narration. The message that we try to convey here is that the Jewish identity is essential to fulfill the reason behind our lives and our destiny in the material world.

And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed down and prostrated themselves before Haman; because the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordechai bowed not down nor prostrated himself before him. (…) because he had told them that he was a Jew.” (Esther 3:2, 4) At some point in our lifetime, we bow down to material fantasies and illusions that separate us from our true Essence and identity (see our commentary “Shemot: Our True Identity as Redemption” posted on January 8, 2012). The Creator put us in this world to experience life under material limitations and restrictions. Nature imposes its immutable laws that make us live submitted to them by Divine decree. Our problems appear when nature's laws and conditions give little space to our free will to make the right choices, and our difficulties become even more unbearable when we make the wrong choices. These are what we call ego's fantasies and illusions, that turn what seems to be simple into something difficult or complicated from which we can't free ourselves.

We are indeed commanded by the Creator to live in the world according to the conditions and restrictions imposed by nature, but this does not mean that we allow nature to shape our human character according to nature's negative or destructive outcomes. This was the way Pagan and “uncivilized” peoples behaved and ruled their individual and social lives, by acting and reacting either like certain animals or natural phenomena. The negative aspects of such references by “nature” are what turn life in this world harder and consequently pointless, and those are the traits that Haman personifies.

Our sages teach that Haman in his time represented Amalek, the constant enemy that undermines Israel, and we are commanded to remember him every day. They relate that name to a range of emotions and traits such as fear, hesitation, doubt and uncertainty, in the sense that they lead us astray from the right choices we must make and our true purpose in life. Mordechai the Jew represents our true Essence and identity that never prostrates to the negative aspects of human consciousness as reflections of the damaging outcomes of human nature. This also means that Mordechai personifies the highest level of consciousness that leads us in the right direction. In this context, Haman is the Jew's enemy, as it is Amalek and all that both represent: “And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hamedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.” (3:10)

The highest awareness of our true identity is the guardian at the gates of consciousness, as the means to connect with the One who created us. This guardian does not allow any space for negative and damaging traits in the way we treat our self and our surrounding reality: “Haman said moreover: ‘Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and tomorrow also am I invited by her together with the king. Yet all this availed me nothing, so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.’” (5:12-13) and most of the times in our transit through this world, the highest knowledge of the goodness of Love's ways and attributes seems to be unacknowledged and unrecognized by those to whom we give the best of us: “And the king said: ‘What honor and dignity had been done to Mordechai for this?’ Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him: ‘There is nothing done for him.’” (6:3)

In a higher level, the purpose of the lower aspects of consciousness is to acknowledge and recognize our highest awareness of who we truly are, instead of leading us to our defeat and death under ego's negative illusions: “Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordechai, and caused him to ride through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him: ‘Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighted to honor.’” (6:11) In this sense we have to eliminate the negative traits of human consciousness and subjugate those that we can direct towards positive ends: “(...) ‘If Mordechai, before whom you have begun to fall, be of the seed of the Jews, you shall not prevail against him, but shall surely fall before him.’” (6:13) and our seed as Jews is Love as the material manifestation of God's Love, and nothing prevails against His ways and attributes because they are the purpose and destiny of our Jewish identity.

God's ways and attributes define our relationship and connection with Him, and Esther's plea is the assurance of this in these verses that hint His hidden Presence: “Then Esther the queen answered and said: ‘If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request; for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my peace, for the adversary is not worthy that the king be damaged.’” (7:3-4) and when we fully realize that our Jewish identity is bound to God's ways and attributes, and we fulfill His will as our destiny, we inherit the power to conduct the lower aspects of consciousness in the positive direction that only our complete awareness of God's Love as our Essence can give us: “On that day did the king Aashverosh give the house of Haman, the Jews’ enemy, unto Esther the queen. And Mordechai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordechai. And Esther set Mordechai over the house of Haman.” (8:1-2)

In our total knowledge of God's ways and attributes as our identity we are indeed empowered to overcome all the real and potential threats to our existence: “(...) the king had granted the Jews that were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, and to slay, and to cause to perish, all the forces of the people and province that would assault them, their little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. (…) and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.” (8:11, 13) and this is the way our destiny is meant to be, as long as we know that the reason and purpose of our life is to recognize ourselves in our Jewish identity: “The Jews had Light and gladness, and joy and honor. And in every province, and in every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy, a feast and a good day. And many from among the peoples of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews was fallen upon them. (…) in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them; whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them.” (8:16-17, 9:1)

This is indeed the “happy ending” that we must pursue by knowing and exercising who we are: “And all the princes of the provinces, and the satraps, and the governors, and they that did the king’s business, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordechai was fallen upon them. For Mordechai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went forth throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordechai waxed greater and greater. And the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and with slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto them that hated them.” (9:3-5)

This is the legacy that we have to bear permanently in our soul, mind, heart and body, not only once a year because our Jewish identity is the source of the sweetest of all joys: “(...) and that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.” (9:28), and Mordechai the Jew, the Moses of his generation, reminds us to be Jewish as the Torah tells us: “For Mordechai the Jew was next unto king Aashverosh, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed.” (10:3)

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From the Book's Foreword

Let's reexamine our ancestral memory, intellect, feelings, emotions and passions. Let's wake them up to our true Essence. Let us engage in the delightful awareness of Love as the Essence of G-d. The way this book is written is to reaffirm and reiterate its purpose, so it presents its message and content in a recurrent way. This is exactly its purpose, to restate the same Truth originally proclaimed by our Holy Scriptures, Prophets and Sages. Our purpose is to firmly enthrone G-d's Love in all dimensions of our consciousness, and by doing it we will fulfill His Promise that He may dwell with us on Earth forever. Let's discover together the hidden message of our ancient Scriptures and Sages. In that journey, let's realize Love as our Divine Essence, what we call in this book the revealed Light of Redemption in the Messianic era.