Spring has arrived and we’ve all returned to the strange, yet deeply familiar, place where the world seems to shift — even if ever so slightly. The ancient shifting echoes in our bones and creates an opening: for life, for laughter, for sexuality, for change. Further north and higher up, the tyrant winter’s icey grip begins to melt and new life springs forward; here on the Mediterranean the winter rains come to an end and the long, sultry summer begins.
Purim often conincides closely with the Spring Equinox and we find ourselves in the Jewish World filling this opening with the absurd revelry of Purim. On the surface we dress up in fantastic costumes and get smashed to celebrate Queen Esther, the consort of King Ahashverosh (possibly Xeres I), who, with some help from her cousin Mordechai, intervened to save the Jewish people from genocide in ancient Persia. It’s worth noting that the massive Persian Empire, stetching from India to Greece, most likely included every Jew in the world within it’s borders. Every single one of them at the mercy of the genocidal scheming of Haman, the grand vizier of the Empire. In a strange sequence of events, Haman’s plot is foiled and it is him and his allies, not the Jews, who meet their brutal end on the gallows of Shushan.
Interestingly, this fantastic story of Jewish survival lacks any mention of God or divine intervention. There are no plagues, no miracles, no prophets, no angels, no revelation from above. There is no God in this story. Human effort combined with chance, with the messiness of life, saves the Jewish people from sure destruction. The lots, or “purim”, fell where they fell, and tragedy was averted.
Even in those hopeless, terrifying times, when everything seemed to be turned upside down, with no miraculous intervention from above or below, things simply worked out—and they worked out precisely because everything was turned on its head: tangled and interconnected.
Life often takes us by storm, without any hope of miraculous intervention. We can all testify to the horror of loosing control and watching life unfold in tragedy after tragedy, heartbreak after heartbreak (in my case, loosing a parent this year). Purim, however, offers us a fresh insight into everything we’ve been wrestling with over the long, cold nights of the literal, psychological or spiritual winter that we now have the opporunitity to leave behind.
Purim reminds us that even in the chaotic messiness of life, even in the darkest moments of peril and literal or metaphorical destruction, there is a design, a rhythm, a dance, greater than ourselves. Call it God. Allah. The Name. The Light. Nothingness Without End. Infinity. The Universe. Love. Fate.
This hidden rhythm is the key to surviving and thriving in the tangled chaos of our lives. Even in the most mundane or ordinary aspects of life there are endless sparks hiding behind all of our masks pushing and moving us forward, saving and nurturing us along the way. Whether it’s human cruelty or human compassion, whether everything is making sense and falling into place or desperately spinning out of control, the fact that we can only let go and learn, that we can only listen for the beat and try to dance along, is at the heart of the old Purim tale — that quirky tale and drunken celebration that so perfectly fills this ancient spring opening of light and life.
Happy Purim! Happy Spring!