What are you wearing for Purim? Part 2
Yesterday, we discussed the importance of clothing in the story of Purim, as well as the custom of wearing costumes on this holiday. However, when discussing the Kabbalah we always keep in mind that there is both the physical aspect, and an opposing or complementary spiritual aspect to all that we do.
The Shabbat before Purim is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance. We have a special Torah reading for the maftir, as well as a special haftarah. In the maftir we are called to remember what Amalek did to us when we were leaving Egypt, and in the haftarah from 1 Samuel 15 we read about King Shaul (Saul) who is called upon by G-d through the prophet Samuel to destroy the Amalekites. We read in that story, that of course King Saul did not do as he was commanded, but instead spared the choicest of their herds and flocks, as well as sparing the king of the Amalekites. It is no surprise to learn that the enemy of the Jewish people in the story of Purim is a descendant of Amalek named Haman. This is the physical side of the story, but what is the spiritual connotation?
Well, one can do more than just dress in costumes on Purim or other times of the year, because while Amalek is a nation as described in the Tanakh, Amalek can also be a character trait. A character trait that one puts on like any other piece of clothing or costume.
There is a Midrash on the verse we read from the maftir: “Remember what Amalek did to you...as you came forth from Egypt, how he encountered you on the way and cut down all the weak who straggled behind you.”
It describes this character trait on its commentary and explains that when we see the work for “encountered you,” that this can also be interpreted as “he cooled you off.” In other words, this character trait of Amalek makes us questions all our decisions as it relates to our divine service. We must remember that when our ancestors stood at Har Sinai receiving the Torah they made a commitment through the statement “Naaseh v’Nishma, We will do and we will listen.” The fact that our ancestors stated that they would first do before they listened, implied that they would seek to do the will of Hashem without hesitation or doubt. Only after, when they would listen, did this imply understanding the commandments of Hashem intellectually.
How do we know if we have clothed ourselves with Amalek? We know when our commitment to Torah goes beyond the limits of our understanding. In other words, we don’t hear a voice telling us, “Sure, go ahead and follow Torah, but keep in mind that you have other commitments and you should never bite off more than you can chew.”
The Baal Shem Tov and others taught us through Gematria (numerology) that the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Amalek is the same value as the Hebrew word “safek,” which means doubt. Amalek causes doubt and hesitation which cools us off in our devotion to our divine service.
Throwing off the cloak of Amalek and winning out over our inner Amalek requires devoting ourselves to G‑d’s service without hesitation or limitation. Keeping and observing the Torah with diligence and enthusiasm that are beyond our ability to reason with our intellect. First saying, “I wll do, and then saying I will understand.”
Chag Purim Sameach!