When I was a child, hanging in our home was a needlepoint my mother made that had a picture of a house, and underneath the words, “Home is where your is .”
I had seen it a million times but never realized what it was really saying… until one day I asked my parents what it means that “Home is where your is.” After they laughed, they explained that the heart symbol was supposed to be read as if it said, “Home is where your heart is.” I replied by asking, “What does it mean “Home is where your heart is buggy”? They laughed again and explained that the little buggy was just there for design and wasn’t meant to be read, unlike the heart, which was meant to be read.
After that, “Home is where your is” became a family joke, and a story my parents love to tell over.
We all have moments in life when we fail to recognize the deeper meanings of things around us. Sometimes it can be a seemingly nonchalant comment or gesture that has much deeper significance and meaning than realized.
As a therapist, we are trained to try to be in tune and to recognize such nuances. We try to interpret and externalize the hidden, subtle, often subconscious meanings.
I would venture to say that, regarding many religious matters, we fail to recognize the deeper subtleties and meanings behind our rituals and customs. Perhaps there is no greater time of year when we miss the nuances and depth than during the holiday of Purim.
I often ask my students who they think wears the best costume on Purim. After they excitedly suggest their nominations, I tell them that, in my opinion – which incidentally is always correct – no one wears a better costume than the holiday of Purim itself!
Purim masquerades as a simple day of fun and gaiety. While it’s unquestionably a day to enjoy on all levels, we shouldn’t miss out on the deeper meanings and lessons of the day.
It’s worth taking a few moments to contemplate some of the less recognized, yet vital, messages of this beloved and joyous holiday. Although each idea requires its own individual focus, we will briefly list some of those timeless ideas:
Purim is a celebration of kabalas haTorah. The Gemara relates that although there was a modicum of coercion at the time of the Kabalas HaTorah at Sinai, at the time of the Purim miracle, the nation joyously and unequivocally reaccepted and rededicated themselves to Torah.
Purim marks the victory of good midos (character traits) over bad midos. Achashveirosh was driven by paranoia, lust, greed, and power. Haman was consumed with hate, hubris, and pursuit of glory and power. Their evil plans were thwarted by Mordechai and Esther who personified love, devotion, selflessness, faith, and humility. It’s truly a story of good guys beating the bad guys.
The focus of Purim is horizontal as well as vertical. The story of the Megillah reminds us that Hashem runs every facet of our lives. We give mishloach manos to build our connection and friendship with our peers, neighbors, and friends. We also give matanos la’evyonim to those lacking and underprivileged. Finally, at the s’udah, we reach a state of inner and outer joy, rejoicing in who we are and accepting that we are beloved and special.
It’s not always realized that the immediate consequence of the Purim miracle was the rebuilding of the Second Beis HaMikdash. When Achashveirosh came to power, he immediately stopped the recently begun reconstruction of the Beis HaMikdash. After his death, his son and successor, Darius II, commissioned the recommencement and completion of the rebuilding.
Purim serves as a chizuk for us that we too will soon merit g’ulah and the ultimate rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, even if now it’s impossible to see how.
Purim is an incredible day of t’filah. Purim begins with Taanis Esther to remind us that the miracle was the result of our prayers during that desperate time. S’farim reveal that on Purim the gates of prayer are wide open, and prayers can accomplish incredible things.
Appreciate the blessings of life, health, and family while we have them. Haman’s evil decree instantly turned over the world for the Jews. His undoing and destruction were equally quick and unexpected.
In life, things can change so quickly. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted.
Perhaps most poignantly: Never ever give up! At the time of the Megillah, the Jewish situation was worse than bleak. They had no one to turn to and nowhere to run. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, they maintained a sense of hope and persevered.
Purim reminds us to peel back layers and see beyond the surface. In a superficial society, that message is invaluable. On Purim, we recognize that there are many masks hiding the truth, most prominently the truth of the divine Hand orchestrating every facet of the world and our lives.
Home is unquestionably where your ____ is. It’s up to us to decide what symbolism we insert there.