Purim, the BT and Unity

I still remember my first Purim as a BT. I didn’t drink, reasoning that I didn’t come to Torah observance to party. However I did get to witness a few unbelievable Purim Shpiels at Ohr Somayach in Monsey as Rabbi Lam was a central participant.

After many years I have a much greater appreciation of Purim and its connection to the BT. Purim at its core is about Jewish Unity and Teshuva. Faced with annihilation that entire Jewish people banded together to rediscover their true purpose and reconnect with Hashem and His Torah. As Baalei Teshuva we certainly have first hand experience of the intense Teshuva experience and the power it creates.

On the Unity side, the mitzvos of the day, illustrate this theme. The reading of the Megillah is a public proclamation of Hashem’s guidance over the affairs of the Jewish People. It is often noted that Purim night is the most crowded event at Shul, with the possible exception of Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur.

The Purim Seudah is a unifying experience as are all Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. Shaloch Manos and Matanos L’Evyonim are both mitzvos designed to created closer bonds between Jews. Some Poskim hold that the drinking on Purim at the Seudah serves to bring us together, as sometimes it is necessary to loosen up to make closer connections.

Baalei Teshuva long for authentic Jewish connections, which is why communal integration is one of our major issues. And as Jews who have been on both sides of the observant/non-observant divide, we have the potential to spur the community to further unification. But first we need to feel in the depths of our hearts that we are all part of one Jewish People. If we can feel that deep connection, many of the divisions caused by judgementalism would fade, as we tend to judge ourselves favorably. Deeper connections would also spur us to collectively work on the crisis’s of Jewish Assimilation, Financial Pressures, Kids at Risk and Shidduchim. Often we see these as somebody else’s problem, but as integral parts of the Jewish people we need to view them as all of our problem.

Today as we engage in the very communal act of a public fast heading into Purim, perhaps we can focus on the essential mitzvos of these days, working on caring deeply about our fellow Jews and collectively returning to Hashem.

15 comments on “Purim, the BT and Unity

  1. Speaking of distractions: loud conversations and cell phone noises should get more negative attention from gabboyim (and they should refrain, too!). Men can make a lot of noise among themselves.

  2. Jaded, it’s impossible to miss your powerful empathy for the excluded, or those who feel excluded, in both these comments. This is IMHO a beautiful quality and is in some respects something that some sectors of our community could do a lot more to improve.

    On the other hand, while I actually agree with you that the Jewish community as a whole, and people involved in eduction and outreach in particular, should do a lot more to make women feel both more welcome and respected intellectually, I hope you are not planting your flag in the mixed seating issue. It is a non-starter, not only halachically, but logically: Men do not concentrate fully on what they are doing when they are among women; and when what they are doing is supposed to be a form of avodas hakodesh, that level of distraction essentially negates what they are supposed to do, or worse.

    On the other hand, why an ezras nashim has to be set up in a way that screams “second class citizenship” is something I have never understood.

  3. Bob Miller,

    Who said anything about infringing on the actual halachah. Also from a woman’s perspective it’s a whole different kind of arguing in general. Orthodox judaism needs to redefine their attitudes/arguments/opinions/decisions with regards to women in general.

  4. Tzirel Chana,

    Lovely little write up on “unity”.
    Maybe cuz I live in New York I have other questions/concerns and lessons learned from that heartrending tragedy.
    What does “unity” have to do with the heartrending senseless killings of innocent students ?
    It’s like a twisted version of “meklal lav atah shameiah hein”, in that the fact that we ARE singing Shlock Rock’s “To Unite All Jews” song (I loved that song and the Emunah song when I was a kid) so loudly and proudly too , at this time is proof enough that in general there is no unity.
    Not that this emotional reaction of “unity” is something to be especially proud of and written about until we are one big post of sheer utter unison and everyone just wants to puke from unity overdose.

    Are you proud when you use your G-d given skills of empathy and sympathy, how does it make you feel ?
    What puzzles me most is that you and many others think this show of unity (from all sects of judaims!!!! wow/ unbelievable/a modern day miracle/the messiah in many hats and disguises just in time for purim) is worthy of the Nobel peace prize or something close to it.
    Senseless killings are always heartrending.
    I don’t understand the dishwasher student story and the angle everyone is touting either but that’s just me.
    When I was a kid I could never understand how they didn’t let Hillel in cuz he couldn’t pay.
    I couldn’t believe they would let someone freeze on the roof like that, no matter what kind of lessons we were supposed to learn from that.

  5. I guess her point, however, is that there was no “post” on the topic, at least mentioning it and expressing condolences. I can say that from here that the BBT Twins were unusually “out of pocket” the last week or so and that they should be given every benefit of the doubt!

  6. Tzirelchana,

    You missed these comments and others here, at the end of another thread (Concerts, Intellectual Understanding and Rabbinic Authority March 4th, 2008 – Guest Contributor):

    Bob Miller
    March 6th, 2008 21:42 99
    I received an email this afternoon from the Yeshiva World news service about tehillim services being organized at major shuls on account of this sad event. It read in part:

    “In the United States, many Shuls were quickly arranging many Tehillim, and Kinnos Hisorirus gatherings for Thursday night. As of this time, YWN has learned that K’hal Tiferes Yackov (Hagoen Rav Avrohom Schorr Shlita) will be having a Kinnus Hisorirus at 10:00PM [1212 East 15th Street]; and the Agudath Yisroel Bais Binyomin will be having a Kinnus Hisorirus at 10:30PM; and the Mora D’asra – Rav Pinchos Breuer Shlita will be speaking for men and women [2913 Avenue L].
    In Baltimore there will be a community gathering for Tehillim tonight at 8:15PM at Shearith Israel Congregation (the “Glen Avenue Shul”).”

    This came in an email from the Bostoner Chassidic Community in Har Nof:

    “Consequent upon the murderous attack in Yerushalayim tonight on
    Merkaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva, The Bostoner Rebbe Shlita has issued a
    call from his Beis Hamedrash in Yerushalayim asking every Yid
    wherever he is, whatever he is doing, to stop now and recite three
    chapters of Tehillim, any three chapters. Those who need a Refua
    Shleima should be healed, those that need a yeshua to get the yeshua
    they need. Now is a time for all Yidden to stand together and direct
    ourselves to the Ribbono Shel Olam.

    Nesanel Peterman
    Yerushalayim”

    Bob Miller
    March 6th, 2008 22:21 100What I meant above by “this sad event” was today’s Arab atrocity.

    Menachem Lipkin
    March 7th, 2008 02:54 101Kinda puts this concert nareshkeit into perspective. May Hashem avenge these precious souls.

    Bob Miller
    March 7th, 2008 08:44 102For us to be worthy of deliverance, we have to keep our everyday behavior on a high level, so concern about concerts isn’t so trivial.

    Bob Miller
    March 7th, 2008 10:51 103
    Found today in New York Sun article:

    “Just as there is a special place in hell for perpetrators of attacks on men women and children doing nothing but going about their daily lives, there is a special section there reserved for attackers of young men who were sitting and studying Torah,” said the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran. “Those who were killed, not the murderers for whom Palestinians use the word, are true martyrs, holy innocent souls killed only because they are Jews.”

  7. Maybe its because I live in Israel but I’m very disappointed that you havent devoted on single byte to the terrorist attack in Mercaz. Those boys were genuine kedoshim and their death inspired a show of unity among the warring factions of the Torah World, the big tent of Torah which was until now unprecedented. The families received condolence calls from all sectors of our people including those who were at their opposite end politically, hasidim,even neturei karta. The photographs of the boys arba kanfos soaked in blood were more harrowing than any I”ve ever seen. I don’t know why no one saw fit to comment on this event. Some of these boys were the sons of BTs, even American BTs so these are (were) truly our people. Hope that Purim brings happier tidings.

  8. “Why not just allow mixed seating instead of making conservative Judaism the next obvious step.”

    Why not stick to our guns 100% ?

  9. Good G-d what brand of teshuvah was I smoking last year. I was quite the Ahavas Yisroel Hippie Groupie too.

    Mark,
    This was actually one of my favorite BBT pieces , thanks for running it again. The timing could not have been more ironic actually. So basically you’re saying that judging is the root of division and disconnect.
    Is one allowed to judge leaders ? How else does one choose someone to follow ?
    Judging the followers probably makes less sense as the followers each have their own shortcomings or whatever.
    I think a major part of choosing a path to run along on is the part where you judge the leader of the path/sect/ and the decisions and opinions that leader does/has.
    One interesting fun fact to consider this purim, there are no orthodox synagogues that allow mixed seating or not to my knowledge. I don’t understand why a “women’s minyan” would be preferable to mixed seating ?
    That makes no sense, especially considering all the reasons some don’t accept the “woman’s minyan” like blessings in vain and division of community.Why not just allow mixed seating instead of making conservative Judaism the next obvious step.
    These days I wouldn’t step foot into a synagogue unless the seating is mixed. I’m not sitting partitioned off into some section .

  10. Mark,
    What am amazing post! As you know, achdus is a passion of mine and I hope your posting will get people to think. You have opened up a new aspect of simchas yom tov!!! Thanks!

  11. Chaim G , preferably on one rollercoaster. We could build a whole new tallest and fastest one that would accomodate all spiritual height levels and all the colors of the Jewish rainbow.And we could all experience the awesome intensity of global connection that only a shared experience on a tallest fastest rollercoaster could initiate.

  12. Mark , Astoundingly astute observations , and stunningly so.I especially love the suggested linear logic on connection and judging favorably.Rabbi Goldson instead of that potent herbal stuff I had originally recommended for smoking those feel good Ahavas Yisroel pipe dreams …. This stuff that Mark’s suggesting (deep connection understanding on a global level plant ) might actually work too. Definitely in large rolled doses and if smoked often and with everyone in the same synagogue or house of pipe dream worship.

  13. The revalidation of the acceptance of the Torah on Purim kiymu vkiblu would make unity a pre-requisite. As it was “the first time around” at Sinai, Torah must be accepted by a unified Jewish People “as one person with one heart”.

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