Category Archives: Purim

Time to Move

Life moves forward. Phases come and go. Situations change. And time continues to move.
I look back and see how I always thought that wherever I was, I would be there forever. I would forever be in elementary school. Then, of course, I’d be forever in high school. As a young newlywed, I thought I’d be at that stage forever – and I certainly couldn’t imagine being the mother of teenagers.
But time does not stand still – and neither do we.
Sometimes we find ourselves in troubling circumstances. A difficult teacher, a fight with a friend or a painful family situation. We might think we’ll be in that situation forever.
Or we can find ourselves in a great situation and loving it. Maybe we have wonderful social status, a great family or a teacher we’re thriving under. We might be lulled into thinking that things will always be pleasant and easy for us.
But I learned that life propels us forward. Ready or not, the phases come and go. It doesn’t only have to do with age. Situations change. The minutes blend into each other, creating hours. The hours merge together forming days. And suddenly we are at a different stage of life.
Actually, I cannot lay sole claim to these observations. Take a look at Pirkei Avos, ה: משנה כה – פרק “בן חמש שנים למקרא, בן עשר שנים למשנה…בן שמונה עשרה לחופה, בן עשרים לרדף…”. The mishnah talks about the stages in life and tells us what a person is ready for at each stage. During each stage there are changes that happen to us, preparing us for the next stage.
As life progresses we are presented with various situations, some difficult and some joyous. But through each one Hashem wants us to grow emotionally, to work on ourselves to change and be ready for the next situation that life will bring. And more: the way we handle the experiences that life hands us will hopefully make us into better ovdei Hashem.
As we came into the season of Purim this year, I remembered how the conversations in my house used to sound. The big decisions were about whether to dress up as a lion or a tiger or maybe even a British soldier.
Boy, how times have changed. Now the conversations are centered around other topics. “Ma, I’ll get drunk anyway, so can’t you buy me schnapps? “Guess what! This year I am smoking on Purim.” I look at my teenage boys and wonder when they got so big. When did we stop deciding which costume they would choose?
Then Purim ended, and I was thrown into Pesach. I remember how Shushan PUrim used to be the start of the countdown for going to spend yom tov with my parents. Now, Shushan Purim is panic day because somewhere along the lines of time I learned how to make Pesach, and it’s time to do it again.
It only seems like minutes from season to season. I have to stop and ask myself – Am I changing, growing emotionally, as my life pulls me along? Did a year’s worth of experiences prepare me for the next set of experiences? Have I grown closer to Hashem? Have I become more compassionate toward others?
The Mishnah can be used as a constant reminder to look at ourselves and evaluate if we are continuing to grow and change through each stage in life.
The Torah gives us all the tools we need to navigate everything we’ll experience. How will we make the most of each life situation? That’s up to us. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes said, “The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”
Let’s make sure that we are moving in the right direction.

 

This article originally appeared in Links magazine and appears here in revised form, with permission.

Feeling the Simchah of Purim

Feeling the Simchah of Purim

My children all unanimously agree that Purim is the best Yom Tov. For months beforehand they talk about what they will dress up as and which friends will receive their mishloach manos. As we get closer and closer to Purim their excitement increases and escalates. So far there never has been a Purim when they were disappointed.

The older ones need Purim shtick that will outdo last year’s. Each day the younger ones have a different idea of what they want to dress up as. And everyone hopes that this year they will get the most nosh ever.

It is so easy for me to get caught up in their excitement. I never know what the frenzied pace of the day will bring. But I am ready to go along with the flow.

At some point in the day, however, I will feel pain. Because I do have some painful memories of Purim. My sister was diagnosed with her cancer shortly before Purim. I went with her to Sloan Kettering on Shushan Purim. It was on that day that the doctor casually declared that she didn’t have too many years left to live.

A few years later my ill mother took a turn for the worse on Purim. It was on that day that she lost her appetite and never regained it. Losing an appetite is not a good sign. It was downhill from there.

But I like to keep in mind some of the lessons of Purim. We all know that it doesn’t say Hashem’s name in the Megillah. And yet we know beyond a doubt that Hashem orchestrated each event. It seemed as if all the Yidden would be killed. It seemed like there was no hope for a salvation. But the miraculous salvation teaches us that Hashem micromanages each event in our lives, no matter how big or small.

I was recently reading something that Rabbi Frand wrote.  Haman had everything and should have been the happiest one around. He had a large family, money, a prestigious position and lots of power. But the one thing he didn’t have was the only thing he could focus on. The fact that one person, Mordechai, wouldn’t bow down to him gave him no rest. This man could never be happy because he was always focused on what he didn’t have rather than what he did. He was the antithesis of one who is happy with what he has.

On Purim we have the mitzvah to be b’simchah. But there is so much pain in this world. There is so much worry in this world. How can we really feel that simchah? We can – regardless of what the circumstances are in our lives. We can be the exact opposite of Haman. We can notice what we have. We can be grateful for what we do have. By taking nothing for granted we can feel real serenity inside of us.

There is nothing that I just wrote that is new to me. There is nothing that I just wrote that was a real eye-opener to me. But I am grateful for these reminders.

Purim is almost here. I have a lot to do before it arrives. I know that over the next few weeks I will have flashbacks. I know that I will feel pain. But I hope to remember these lessons.  Hashem is here taking care of me. And I have so much to be grateful for.