The freedoms within (ask me about what I mean)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Am I ready?

There is something buzzing around this world creating all this conflict. It's the month of Adar, which is supposed to be the happiest month and here we are mourning deaths by earthquakes and murderers, watching the violence erupt within the Israeli-palestinian world, and witnessing revolution after revolution in a myriad of countries.

I know there are many sayings that the world is ending or the Messiah is coming. Regardless though if any of these events happen, are we going to be ready? Are you ready to die or come back to life or whatever is going to happen and reflect on your life and be happy with it. I know that I am one of those people that have said or still say 'I'm going to do this today and make up for it tomorrow'. What if tomorrow doesn't come?

This was one of the main messages I picked up from Purim, even though there were so many to choose from. Here's how it worked:

On Campus jamming 
Purim began Saturday night. Israel XP, my program headed to a local Yeshiva to hear the first Megillah reading. With many crazy men dancing around and fire crackers being heard in the distance, this could have possibly been marked my most unique Megillah reading ever. After that people were either going out to Tel Aviv or staying on campus to drink with the staff, dance around, play guitar/tarbouka etc. I chose to stay-very glad about that. Listening to Omek Hadavar, our Av Bayit's band's music play we just sat around laughed and we discussed some real concepts. The next morning Megillah was read on campus and then whoever wanted to could go to the hospital to give out Mishloach Manot (baskets of food/candy given out specifically on Purim) to kids in the hospital. I chose to go, which I am very glad about as well. Baruch Hashem there wasn't enough kids at the hospital to give all the Mishloach Manot we made to. After that, the group headed to Bnei Brak (a very religious community) to walk around and give Matanot LeEvyonim (money to the poor). Corner after corner there were beggars as well as countless amounts of people willingly flinging their change into their cups.

After this we were taken to our seudas (festive meals) in Ramat Bet Shemesh. Wine was passed around along with words of encouragment, wisdom, and some funny poems about each girl made by our program director. I don't remember the exact words of mine but I know it was something like: 'at first you said goodbye to mitzvot and Torah and then you came back stronger-I'm happy you chose to come here-I cannot wait to see you as an upcoming leader of the Jewish people'. I guess this was a moment of ah-ha that this is what I was here for..

In Jerusalem Sunday night dancing in front of a Nachman van
Anyways after that, me and a few girls took a bus to Jerusalem. The bus was crazy. There were ten of us in the back singing Jewish songs and playing our tarbouka. It was a 45 minute party bus to Jerusalem-Jew style. I was so spiritually high at that moment since we were singing 'Ani Maamim-Moshiach Moshiach Moshiach!' that I started to tell the people on the bus I was Shomer Negiah (not touching-yes TOUCHING boys till marriage) If that was true or not, I am not sure-hopefully I can reach that goal soon.

Now let me tell you what Jerusalem is like on Purim. Everyone is in costume, everyone is drunk (many for the right reasons, many for the wrong) and everyone is just walking around the streets either spitting Torah or spitting their puke-but regardless of it all, it's a whole city of a bunch of Jewish people celebreating a holiday. I can honestly say I don't ever want to celebrate Purim anywhere else ever again! I spent Sunday night in Jerusalem then returned all day Monday to repeat the festivities since in the walled city, the real Purim is a day after the world's Purim-so basically my Purim lasted me about 3 days.

All this craziness led me to thinking that I am just in love with everything this year is offering me. I've been inspired to one day be able to wake up to a day if the world is crashing down or being resurrected or flying on a eagle to Jerusalem I can say that I will be ready.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The secrets of Purim!

For a week, I was on a week long conference called MASA Building Future Leadership Conference. It consisted of over 400 undergrads and post-grads on MASA sponsored Israel programs that came together to acquire skills in leadership. A participant was put into a specific group which would be home base for the rest of the week; this is where you would do the most of the reflecting on what you had learned. I was in group 6. You would then choose a specific track (I chose Tikkun Olam) where you would have one full day of, and you would choose a skill workshop (where I chose campus entrepreneurship) where you took a few days to acquire some skills in the specific area.

The whole thing was really an amazing week filled with leadership activities that got my mind flowing with new ideas, and put what leadership really is into a new perspective. has the schedule on it if you are interested in seeing the activities. Basically, what I really got out of it, besides a whole new wave of friends, was realizing what I was truly passionate about. In one of our activities, we had to go around and state two new ideas of what we would like to see on campus when we return or go to college. People said new kosher restaurants, more Israel advocacy, Israeli heritage nights, etc. Going into the conference, I thought the idea I was constantly thinking about was un-original, but apparently, it wasn’t.

I stood up, cleared my throat, and said: ‘I want to start at the core and get Jewish kids in public high schools more exposure to Judaism, and I want to find away to make them love Judaism over force it upon them.’ Throughout the week, I had my mind swirling with ideas which hopefully I can put into effect one day. If you want to know more, or want to help me with it, feel free to ask!

Anyways, besides the conference being mind provoking and exciting, I truly did miss the Jewish learning I was doing every day at school. As we all know, Purim is approaching, actually in a few days and my school is not shy of the fact, that besides Purim being a ‘kids’ holiday, it’s got a lot of lessons that can apply to us today.

Go up to the average Jew and ask them what holiday they think is the holiest day of the year. I guarantee you, 6 months ago; I would have said Yom Kippur, the day where we all fast and are forgiven (or not forgiven) for our sins. Really though, in the Torah, Yom Kippur’s real name is actually Yom HAkipurim-literally translated-the day LIKE Purim. Purim is taking the spiritual and elevating it to its highest, by doing it the right way, alongside the physical (with meals, wine, festivities).

Another aspect: what are clowns? Clowns are people that are dressed up and every time something happens to them, they depict their exact emotions. For instance, one slips and falls on a banana peel, so he gets up and cries, while the other one points and laughs. We all find this funny, but really, and ironically, this is exactly how were supposed to act when things like that happen-no matter how ‘cool’ it is to be apathetic and brush everything off.

So what do clowns have to do with Purim? You dress up! Right! .... No. Clowns are showing us what we are really supposed to be like regardless if you think that they are putting on a show! And what does that have to do with Purim? WINE.

There is a saying in the Gemara I believe: Nichnas Yayin, Yotzeh Sod ‘enter wine, exit secret’. We all know that when we drink we either tend to be more loving, aggressive, funny, whatever it may be, we are not who we really are…or are we being who we should really be? So why on Purim do we dress up? Because we are embarrassed of our secrets? Or we don’t want people to witness our true selves…?

Megillat Esther sounds like Gilui Hester-right? And what does that mean? Hidden revealed. Purim is one of the holiest days of the year because the Jews accepted the Torah. I know, you’re thinking wrong holiday, but really, on Purim the Jews had the choice on to either accept Judaism or deny it. But this time, G-d’s ‘face’ or his presence was hidden-the first time around there is a mashal saying G-d had Mt.Sinai floating on top of them saying either accept me, or I’ll drop this mountain on you right now and you will die (even though that is not to be taken literally). This time, they chose it, with their free will to be a part of the choseness of being a Jew.

All summed up: Purim is a day where we dress up because we know that we are going to be real, which our society is afraid of, and we are going to elevate the physical and the spiritual together, and bringing klal yisrael together (which I didn't get to talk about) making it the holiest day of the year. Tying in MASA, and what I learned on the conference, many people, many Jews in the world are not going to get these messages of Purim. I know and I feel that it is our responsibility, as Jews that if you get the message of Purim, or if you understand the concepts of Judaism to transpire them out to the world of where people are not just simply ignorant, where they are truly just unexposed. I’m really really glad that I got the chance this year to have my eyes opened to all these new messages and ‘hidden’ secrets revealed.

I need to express my gratitude to all my Bar Ilan teachers and staff members that have been patient with me as I asked the questions on what Purim is really all about. I hope this sheds a new light for whoever is reading this on this amazing holiday, we all really deserve to know what it really means. So have a Happy Purim, share your wealth, share your love, and be yourself.