My father used to hide in strange corners of the house when he came home from work. I still feel the anticipation of looking to find him. As I grew older, the games of hide and go seek became less physical and more intellectual. He would hide something in his head which I would attempt to discover.
My mind is one that sees our Heavenly Father’s hand in the world leading us back to Him through a mystical game of clues.
As we get ready to celebrate Nowruz and Purim, the continued threats of war between Iran and Israel weigh heavily on our minds. A few months ago, we were inundated by the exceedingly rare Thanksgivikah. But at this convergence of two large parties, it is more important to come together and celebrate Nowruz and Purim. If you must, call it NowPurimz!
There are governments, there are citizens, and then, there are children! Governments can be evil, people are generally good, and children are pure. Hatred of the other is not innate, but taught by jaded people, disseminated by a corrupt government.
Nowruz celebrates the arrival of Spring. Households display symbolic items on a table called haft seen. The seven items represent seven heralds of life: rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience and beauty. There are customary foods. Children play and dance. Nowruz which means “new light” or “new day” is the celebration of new beginnings and of new hopes, having endured a difficult winter. Life overcomes death.
The book of Esther which is read on Purim celebrates the courage of Queen Hadassah (Esther) and her intervention on behalf of her people. She helped overcome the destruction of the Jewish people. Purim is not a Jewish Halloween. It is a story of Light conquering darkness, life overcoming death.
The story of Purim is set in Shushan, also known as Hamedan. Ester’s tomb rests proudly there in Iran, and is still considered a place of pilgrimage.
The similarities of the two celebrations are undeniably human: We eat, we dance, we sing. We play musical instruments. We gather with friends and family to bond over ancient traditions. We eat more. We celebrate overcoming. We celebrate a new light.
Absent from both celebrations is the name of God.
Perhaps the hidden God is why we wear masks on Purim and the Haji Firuz paints his face black. We make noise with groggers and Haji Firuz with his tambourine. All disguises underscore the essential hiddenness of God. Our overcoming could easily be ascribed to happenstance. But to those of us who love to play, we seek and we find God.
The paradox of the hidden is that during these holidays we are most physical! The festive meals, the musical interludes, and the costumes are a walk away from the spiritual, tending to the physical body. To mystics, the lesson is clear: God can be found not only in solemnity but also in the revelry.
We are born as Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden which nourishes and pleases. Each day is a miracle of creation. The story of humanity is that the more we learn about each other, the closer we become. Distance is created in assuming, in not knowing. It is so much easier to hate someone we don't know, we don't understand. Once we open the door and invite in the other, we learn of shared love, of shared pain, of similar struggles and of similar aspirations.
We are, after all, human, all one, in search of One God, though perhaps on different paths.
In the end, the shape, function, and physiology of the human heart is the same regardless of religion or country of origin. As Rumi proclaimed "We may be Muslims, Jews or Christians but until our hearts become the mould for every heart we will see only our differences."
Let's pray that as we watch our children play this Purim and Nowruz, that we can see the hidden Light in each other, draw closer to one another, and build a safer more loving world to hand over to the next generation.
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