Thursday, March 14, 2019

PARSHAS VAYIKRA/ZACHOR/PURIM 5779


“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayikra-Zachor
7 Adar II 5779/March 15, 2019

Fall back and spring forward, or is it fall forward and spring back? Or is it fall into a spring and spring out of your fall?
Whatever it is, as of this week we are back on daylight savings time. For most of the world, the night we spring forward is a difficult one, as everyone grumbles about the tragic loss of an hour of sleep. This contrasts with the night at the beginning of autumn when we return to standard time which is a virtual holiday, celebrating an extra hour of sleep.
But for those of us blessed with young children, our experience is quite different. On the morning after we fall backwards, it seems that no one informs our blessed cherubs about the time change, and they are awake an hour early, ready to conquer the day, our pleas for just a few more minutes notwithstanding. When we sprung forward this week on the other hand, we also didn’t tell them and thereby gained ourselves an extra hour before they began jumping up and down in their cribs for liberation.
On Monday after the time change, throughout the day I felt more tired than usual. While I woke up the same time as I always do, my body felt it had been deprived of an hour of sleep. I tried to explain the whole concept to my body, but it wasn’t getting it. It’s a little dumb in that way.
When we think of who we are and what defines us we often think of our physical bodies. Ask someone who he is, and he will generally point towards his heart. But is that really who we are? Is our body what defines us?
Whenever I have attempted dieting, I was told that the first step is to train your body. Sometimes the body will crave food even though it’s not really hungry.
It sounds like such a funny concept. It’s as if my body has a mind of its own and won’t accept my instructions.
On a more extreme level, there are people whose bodies have deteriorated from disease and are no longer physically active. Yet, some of these patients continue to convey their thoughts and produce beautiful essays or even art, through an incredible computer program that can decipher their eye movements. No one can argue that such people, despite being trapped in virtually incapacitated bodies, are still very much alive.
So, who are we really? We must be more than our stubborn, fickle, and unreliable bodies. We all know the answer, but we often forget it. We are a soul - a living spiritual spark which contains our deepest feelings, personality, and dictates our decisions. It’s the piece of us which lives within a body in this world, but ultimately transcends the limits of this world when the body is left behind.
Purim, the holiday which seems to be the most physically oriented, actually touches the deepest part of our identity. Celebrating our physical survival compels us to contemplate what physical life means to us. It forces us to ask if we are celebrating life, exactly what are we celebrating? What does life mean to us? Is it for the pursuit of money and pleasure? Or is it an opportunity to find meaning, to connect with G-d, and to enhance the lives of those around us?
Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis and the almost loss of life before one appreciates what life is about. Purim was and is that annual crisis. We came frighteningly close to annihilation before the incredible salvation took place. As we read the Megillah, it should give us a moment of pause to reflect upon our mortality and what being granted a second chance means to us.
Our bodies may not define us, but it is our lifeline in this world. When it breaks down, we feel the pain, and when it’s healthy it is far easier for us to go about our day. We can’t celebrate soulfully unless we can pacify our body and let it join the celebration. That is why we celebrate physically on Purim. It is so that we can get past our physical inhibitions, so that our soul can truly rejoice.
If we never get past the physical celebration however, we are limiting ourselves to enjoying the gift wrapping and never getting to the real gift inside.
Perhaps after a l’chaim or two one may fall backwards, but ultimately Purim is an opportunity for our souls to spring forward and upward, a celebration of the real essence of live.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom,
R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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