|February Purim 1999|
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Happiness, Purim and Success
By Mark Bloom
When we consider each year and our life which we navigate through the year, the Jewish holidays give us much guidance on which values to base our lives. Each of us strives to have a happy and successful life. Yet how many of us can truly say that we have achieved a successful and happy life. True there are periods of time when we are happier and then there are those periods of time when we are less happy. But who can really testify to us that they have reached a state of happiness and success that is not marred with periods of sadness and failure?
Purim is just that holiday that can instruct us on how to be happy and successful on a continued basis. Purim is a holiday that requires us, amongst other things, to get drunk. Not just tippy, but really blown out drunk. Now you have to realize the strangeness of this custom. The Rabbis who came up with the various Jewish laws and customs were certainly not the type to approve of drunkenness. Yet this is just what they decreed upon us!! They urged us to have a gigantic meal with our friends and family and to get rip roaring drunk!
Now understanding this in the context under which the decree was made, will enable us to understand better certain principles of happiness and success.
Purim is the holiday that commemorates the downfall of the wicked enemy of the Jews, Haman, over 2500 years ago in ancient Persia. Haman plotted against the Jewish people and tried to make a mass extermination. He was the highest minister in the cabinet of the cruel king, Achasverous, who gave Haman tremendous power. This power Haman tried to use to destroy the Jewish people.
The truth of the matter, as it is written in the book of Esther, is that Haman did not succeed in carrying out his evil plans. Not because we Jews prevailed through brilliant warfare and strategies, nor due to incessant political bargaining, nor through bribery, but through a series of seemingly totally unrelated incidents. Now each of the various incidents that are related in the book of Esther, (and we recommend that you read it soon!) seem unrelated and innocuous by themselves. None of these various incidents would be called a miracle by themselves. Even the total sum of the individual incidents that led up to the down fall of Haman and his family do not look like a miracle, just a string of unrelated incidents or as we might call them co-incidents.
We do not always recognize the hand of G-d in the world. Perhaps the opposite is true we never notice the hand of G-d in the world. But the truth of the matter is simple G-d runs the world. Try as much as we like, we can only accomplish what G-d permits us to accomplish. We might put a lot of effort into some business and it might fail so completely that we could wonder why we ever started with it. Or, we may not put in much effort to accomplish something and, walla, we reach success that we never even dreamed of.
Purim is a time for realizing that in reality it not that very much is up to us, but, rather that very little is dependent on us. Purim is for realizing that plan what we plan, strive though we strive, the outcome is always in the hands of G-d. If he has other plans, we certainly can not prevail, and if we are destined for success, we will not fail.
Perhaps the closest we can come to the state of total dependency is drunkenness. Especially those who do not imbibe on any regular base, intoxication can be difficult. We no longer have total control over our balance; we may lose full possession of our mental prowess. We may even make some terrible blunders and error judgements. For certain we do not drive automobiles. We might even get sick. Yet the Rabbis, being of good mind and spirit, saw that this state can be beneficial to a persons spiritual and emotional development.
Most people base their happiness on their successes. If they succeed, then they are happy. If they fail, they fall into a brooding that can border on depression, if not becoming an actual depression. But why? Because they consider the outcome of their striving to be an extension of their person, of their egos.
The opposite may truly be the case. A truly happy person is a person who realizes that his successes are not dependent upon his strivings. His successes have to do with the desires of the One who guides with exacting detail the minute events that befall us. Each event independently makes up the whole. Each event carefully designed to fulfil the divine plan.
That we can not see the divine plan, that is our problem. Sometimes we may have a glimpse, most of the time we can not understand it. But whether we understand or not, that is not what is important. What is important is the acceptance of the Divine plan.
If we can be accepting of the world being run by G-d, then we can accept our lack of successes. They are not failures, because it is not us who caused it to fail but rather G-d. These now become lack of successes not due to our personal involvement, but due to heavenly interference beyond our control. There is certainly no reason to become depressed or embittered. We see that G-d has other plans. What are they? We just have to wait. Perhaps some day we can understand. Perhaps not.
This is the lesson of Purim. This is the reason we have the custom to get drunk. Let us take this lesson to heart by doing three things. One is to make sure that we read the book of Esther this Purim. Two, make sure that we get drunk as the Rabbis prescribed for us on Purim. Three, live our life cheerfully, realizing that it is G-d who runs the world.
from theFebruary Purim 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine