Purim 2012 Reminds Us That We Are One

Purim begins at sundown this Wednesday, March 7, 2012, reminds us of a key insight — one which doesn’t shrink from difference, or even the need to fight existential foes — and it all comes down to knowing that we are one.

Even in a world where people speak of good guys and bad guys, sometimes appropriately so, those same people are part of a single human family. Truly knowing that fact should change how we battle, when we battle, how long we battle, etc., whether with words or with weapons.

It is no accident that Mordechai, the paradigmatic good guy of the Purim story, and Haman, the paradigmatic bad guy in same, are cousins descended from their common forefather Issac and foremother Rebecca — one through Jacob and the other through Esau. In this story, as in much of life, the good guys and the bad guys, whichever side one chooses, are more related than either side can typically see.

In fact, the Talmudic directive that on Purim we must drink so much that we can no longer distinguish between “blessed be Mordechai” and “cursed be Haman” is more than a measure of one’s blood alcohol content – though as someone who enjoys an occasional drink, I appreciate that aspect of the holiday! No, the Talmud’s teaching is much more than that.

With the right “help” we can help ourselves see what we may otherwise choose to avoid or simply not know. With the right help, we live out another Talmudic insight – “when the wine goes in, the secrets come out.”

The secret, when it comes to Mordechai and Haman, is not simply that they are more related than one might have otherwise assumed. Purim’s bigger “secret” is that we ourselves will fail to distinguish between Mordechai and Haman because both of them lie within each of us. That is why it takes but a few drinks to confuse them. Both of their identities were always within us anyway.

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