Sunday, March 19, 2006

admit it - we know nothing

I've done pretty well this year at sticking to the month of Adar's two mottos: 1. Don't worry be happy. 2. Turn everything upside down (nahafoch hu). I've been especially good at the second one.

To be honest, I shouldn't take credit for the upside down nature of my life this month. It's just what happened while I sat by and watched. Happily, of course. And somewhat intoxicated.

Adar is the month of Purim, a holiday that externally seems to be about the external. It's a day of indulgence, a day to get shit-faced for a holy purpose - to recognize that we know nothing.

That's basically what my month has been about. Since the very beginning of the month I've been feeling almost helpless to the forces. Everything has seemed upside down and completely ridiculous - but for some reason, I just kept laughing. And for some reason, it all seems to be working out.

The week before Purim, in a single week (and a little bit into the next), I worked five night shifts, slept maybe 15 hours the whole week, imbibed altogether too many substances, looked for an apartment, found an apartment, put down altogether too much money while signing a lease on the apartment, found out my supposed flatmate had decided to leave the holy land, found out she had decided to stay, maybe, packed my apartment, worked some more, started purim day one, found myself at moshav modiin very exhausted and wearing leaves all over my body, moved onto purim day 1.5, found myself with four friends, including one male inadvertantly dressed like an African whore, at 1 am on the corner of route 6 waiting for unsuccessfully trying to hitchhike a nonexistent ride to jerusalem, moved on to purim days two-three (shushan purim, the real purim for cities with walls, a non-holiday everywhere else), found myself in jerusalem (after a ride the night before which brought us to Tel Aviv, bus in the morning to Jerusalem), found myself back in Tel Aviv entirely wrecked after a day of watching (somewhat participating in, mostly exhausted from) hedonistic glee, packed up the rest of my apartment, woke up, got fired from my second (and very annoying) job that I have been trying to quit since I was hired 8 months ago, ordered a moving truck at the very last minute (when could I have made moving plans?) put down more money, moved into my new apartment, went to work yet another midnight shift, came home, stayed awake till Shabbat, cooked, ate, and then.... passed out.

And then came the next week: more Adar, more of the same. Fewer substances imbibed. Still no sleep.

I read a torah from Reb Shlomo Carlebach, that I think originates in Breslov (?), that basically says that Yom Kippur, the seeming opposite of Purim, the seemingly most important and intense day of the year, is actually only second to Purim. According to this torah, we should read Yom Kippur not as day of atonment, but as day like Purim (Yom Ke-Purim).

It seems completely backwards. Yom Kippur is a day of of awareness and repentance through complete denial. We aren't allowed sex, food, drink or even to shower. The purpose: to take responsibility for our sins and for sins we didn't even commit, and to stand before God empty of everything aside from the desire for atonement.

Purim is the day of complete indulgence. We drink till we don't know the difference anymore between good and bad, we eat till we are sick, and we say basically whatever comes to mind, no matter how stupid it sounds. A rabbi friend told me the other day that Purim is supposed to be torah without derech eretz (essentially meaning manners). That means not to get drunk and belligerent for the sake of intoxication in itself, but as a way of losing all inhibitions and allowing truth to come out in its most unadulterated manner.

So essentially, according to this torah, on the day of denial and atonement we are supposed to be working toward the same effect as the day of indulgence and belligerence.

Before Purim this year, I was thinking about how much I connect to the deeper meaning of Purim, the one that justifies the indulgence and the belligerence. One of the ideas of Purim is evident in the name of the holiday's heroine. Her name is Esther, which in Hebrew contains the word 'to hide something.' Esther's also my middle name. My first name, Aliyana, means 'my god answered.' Which, essentially, gives my full name two possible meanings. The first, is that my god answered, but I will hide that answer. The second possibility is that my name means my god answered, and his answer was, I am going to hide it from you.

Whatever it is, my name means that god's answer is going to stay hidden. Maybe I should change my middle name to gila, which also has two meanings: one happiness, the other revelation. A name also connected to the idea of Purim and to hassidut in general - revelation comes through happiness. The biggest commandment of them all is to always be happy. Even when things seem to be at their most backward, we should be happy.

The reason I'm going off onto this tangent is to say that the whole point of Purim, as I've seen it this year, is to understand that what causes the seemingly holiest day of the year to be actually inferior to the seemingly most debaucherous day of the year is this element of hidden holiness, of hidden answers.

Both Yom Kippur and Purim are days of complete openess. One is a day of estoteric analysis, the other is a day of free physicality. It's said of Purim that it's a day when the wine goes in and the secrets come out. Meaning sometimes the harder we look, the less likely we are to find truth. When we let truth emerge on its own, even when it seems to be coming from a place of debauchery, it could actually be coming from the deepest place of truth.

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