Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Purim!

For Jews, it is Purim -- a festival of pun and paradox, in which the central text is a parody of history, telling the story of how a courageous woman and her uncle chose civil disobedience to save their people from a genocide -- and won. How a pompous, stupid king is bamboozled by an ambitious, arrogant , and genocidal Prime Minister -- one might almost say, Vice-President. How everything is turned topsy-turvy, so that the gallows where a Jewish leader was to be hanged becomes the death-place of their tormentor. How God never appears in this story that might seem miraculous.

And, the ancient rabbis taught, on this day Jews are to get so far beyond normal categories as to be unable to distinguish "Blessed Mordechai" (one of the saving team) from "Accursed Haman" (the genocidal minister).

On the surface, the two festivals might seem utterly different: one focused on solemnity, the other on a joke. Yet they have this in common: They pluck delight from disaster, they see the deep oddity of a universe, God's universe, in which God's Presence is achieved through God's absence, in which the fullest life comes from the most degrading death, in which arrogance is brought low by laughter. And they see this oddity not as absurd -- but fully meaningful.

From Arthur Waskow.

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