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“Purim & Pisces: Not your Average Fish Story”

(Insights for the holiday of Purim)

The Holiday of Purim (beginning this Saturday Night) is celebrated during the Hebrew month of Adar, which, according to the Jewish concept of Astrology, corresponds to the sign of PISCES. While Astrology in Judaism does not occupy the same position as it does in conventional thought, nonetheless, as our Sages explain, the Creator of the universe ordains that earthly events will normally occur in accordance with the stars and their alignments. So what is the connection between Purim (which occurs in Adar) and its corresponding sign Pisces? We are told that there are many fish themes swimming beneath the surface of the Purim saga. Keep an eye out below as the FISH CONNECTIONS emerge from their watery depths…

ON THE SURFACE

Flashback … It’s the 5th Century BCE and the Jews of the Persian Empire are weakening in their commitment to Judaism. To make matters worse, the evil Haman decides he wants to destroy the entire Jewish people – all in one bloody day! Consulting the stars, Haman calculates that the month of Adar would be the most favorable time to attempt his all-in-one-day “final solution”. Why? Because Adar corresponds to the Astrological sign of the fish (Pisces), and fish tend to swallow their prey all at once [FISH CONNECTION # 1]. And so Haman sets out to fulfill his devious mission. But just when he can almost taste success, a series of seeming “coincidences” completely foils his plot. Even more strikingly, Haman himself is the one who guarantees his own downfall. By the time the dust settles, every action he has undertaken to destroy the Jews ends up saving the Jews and destroying himself (culminating with the “digging of his own grave” – i.e. construction of his own gallows – as the gallows he builds for Mordechai’s execution are used to hang Haman instead).

SCRATCHING THE SURFACE

Let’s appreciate just how fantastic this irony is: all along, Haman is oblivious to the fact that every single step he takes towards Jewish destruction is actually depositing another brick in the wall of Jewish salvation. By threatening their very existence, he indirectly triggers a renewal in their commitment to Jewish values – reversing the tide of rampant assimilation and destroying himself in the process! As Torah sources remind us, the same fish that swallow their prey are themselves swallowed as well [FISH CONNECTION # 2].

The question is: who has been guiding these events towards a just and positive outcome? G-d? His Name is not mentioned even once in the Megillah of Esther. Moreover, the Megillah contains no miraculous spectacles: no splitting seas (which would have come in quite handy for those of us counting fish connections), etc.

DIVING DEEPER

Nevertheless, G-d is present as the concealed Choreographer behind every scene of the Purim saga, giving us a glimpse into how He guides most of human history: He challenges humanity by granting evil the short-term advantage, but quietly ensures the eventual triumph of righteousness and downfall of evil. And He doesn’t need to accomplish this in the manner of a superhero, defeating His enemies through a grueling bout that He pulls off in a split decision. G-d doesn’t have to fight His enemies at all! Yes, He gives us the genuine freedom to oppose Him, which certainly shapes our DESTINIES AS INDIVIDUALS. But any evil we choose can never truly thwart His MASTERPLAN, because the instant that we choose an evil action, He effortlessly incorporates it into a stepping stone towards a positive result.

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

The masks we wear for Purim remind us that G-d too operates behind a “mask”, known as “nature”. Just as there is a dynamic, hidden world beneath the surface of the sea [FISH CONNECTION # 3], there is a vibrant, hidden world beyond the veil of nature. Even the Pisces sign of the Purim month is connected to our theme: it depicts two fish swimming in opposite directions, representing the options of moving towards evil or righteousness (like Haman and Mordechai) [FISH CONNECTION # 4]. And yet, behind the curtain – whether we choose to swim with the tide of our Creator or against His current – G-d is guiding whatever turns we take towards His vision of a unified destiny.

This is why on Purim, we aim to drink until we can’t perceive the difference between "Blessed Mordechai" & "Cursed Haman" (did you think this was just to put us in touch with the day by getting us to "drink like a FISH" -- a gratuitous Purim joke, and yet no less a candidate for the honor of [FISH CONNECTION # 5]). We drink to blur the distinction between these arch-rivals because from the standpoint of the Masterplan, there really isn’t a difference between Mordechai’s direct contribution to the Divine Agenda and Haman’s indirect contribution to it. In this way, the Purim story reveals an eternal secret for all humanity: that while our actions are tremendously significant (in determining how well we fulfill the individual missions for which we were created, how humanity will fare prior to the climax of history, etc.), G-d is gently guiding the world towards a glorious destiny that will eventually take place no matter what – beneath the surface and behind the scenes. May our awareness of this joyous, hidden reality transport us to the experience of a truly joyful Purim!

Have a Wonderful and Ecstatic Purim! Love, Jon & The Chevra

This article is adapted from the teachings of Rabbi David Aaron, Director of Isralight(I take full responsibility for any mistakes or bad jokes)


Text Copyright © 2010 by Jon Erlbaum and Torah.org


 






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