Holiday of Illusions: Today is Purim

There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snowstorm. We wake from one dream into another dream. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

From behind my carnival mask, I wasn’t sure anyone would recognize me. I smiled and the mask shifted. My friend walked in, full face mask, no one could tell who she was. Another friend, in tall shaky high heels, laughed from behind her mask.

Last night kicked off an unusual Jewish holiday, compared to Halloween in the way that we dress up in costume and the over-abundant presence of candy.

Of course, Jews insist that Purim is nothing like Halloween – Halloween features scary, ghoulish costumes and tricks, while Purim ideally encourages costumes of those we admire and we give gifts of food and sweets rather than grab.

In a way, we wear masks of all kinds, every single day. We build the illusion of confidence, of satisfaction, of routine, of happiness, and then we swim around behind the masks, hoping no one can peer inside to the truth.

Our masks are perfectly fitted to look like our normal faces, but the words inside our heads indicate otherwise.

Why is this? If you think about it, children don’t have masks. They are honest and pure, calling it like it is, expressing their emotions until we tell them to bottle it up.

We begin life raw, as we are, our emotions and our thoughts and our inclinations pouring forth like an unbridled waterfall, and we have no qualms about swimming in the pool at our feet because it feels natural, like a rebirth into who we are meant to be and who we honestly are.

Of course, as we age, we are taught to keep things inside, don’t complain too much, don’t feel too much, make like you’re happy.

As children, jumping in puddles on a muddy rainy day makes us happy. Playing in the yard until dusk makes us happy. Eating dessert first makes us happy. Dancing to the music happens naturally. Our bodies just move. Our souls propel us forward.

It’s a shame we lose that as we grow older. We fit into the formula that’s expected of us, walking the path of expectation and societal norm.

No wonder it doesn’t lead us to happiness down by the river. It’s no secret why we are mired in depression and anxiety. We’ve lost the inner truth that drove us. We’ve lost the connection to soul.

Today is a Jewish holiday whose text holds deep double entendre – king might mean God, the work of the villain for his arch-enemy is used to hang himself in the end.

In a way, don’t we all have a part of the villain in us, and a part of God as well? Is it no wonder that evil intentions lead to one’s own downfall? Is it no surprise that goodness prevails, and honesty and sincerity and connection to soul?

No matter. My kids are preparing their costumes as I type this and we will head to the synagogue for the carnival, to play games, to win candy, to consume sweets, to immerse in unbridled fun and let go, completely.

My wish, my prayer, my hope is that one day, we can all free ourselves from illusions and dwell truly in peace.

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