Purim is an intensely spiritual twenty-four hours, occupying a higher
spiritual realm than even Yom Kippur The elevated frame of mind that is
meant to accompany this holy day is unparalleled in the Jewish calendar.
The challenge of embracing the spiritual while satisfying the physical is a
reflection of the delicate tightrope we are expected to walk throughout our
lives-finding a harmonious balance between body and soul.
This is one of the major themes of this week's Torah portion.
The first half of the Parsha describes the inauguration of the mishkan in
which Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aharon, meet an untimely, tragic end.
In their great zeal to serve their Creator, they rushed into the Temple with
an offering which they were not commanded to bring-an act that invoked
immediate Divine retribution.
The second major theme of this week's portion revolves around the various
foods that are prohibited. The Torah calls the ingestion of crawling,
creeping insects an abomination that defiles the body and forms a barrier
between the soul and its heavenly source.
The juxtaposition of these two themes tells us much about our mission in
life. We are not to live an ascetic life, denying basic human needs to
enable the soul to transcend the body. Nor are we to indulge the body in its
every physical whim. Instead, we are taught to achieve a singular marriage
of body and soul that has the power to forge a wholesome relationship with
our Divine Source.
All of this is summed up in the last verse of the Torah portion in which
Hashem instructs us to create a havdala, separation, between the pure and
the impure, between what we are permitted to eat and what we are not.
The great Torah sage, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, was once asked his impression of
American Jewry after his visit to the United States. In his incisive style
he responded, "Here, they know how to make kiddush but they do not know how
to make havdala."
Yes, we are quick to embrace that which is sanctified, yet we are not as
ready to abstain from that which is profane. To make the division between
right and wrong, pure and impure, is indeed one of the greatest challenges
of our time.
The current worship of "moral equivalence" and humanistic values that try to
erase the distinctions between moral and immoral, holy and profane, clears
the way for all kinds of degenerate behavior. These hollow rationalizations
cannot stand the test of time.
The litmus of one's true humanity is the ability to create the wholesome
marriage of body and soul where one first makes "havdala," differentiating
between that which is illusory and transitory and that which is real, solid
and eternal. Only then, will we be capable of making Kiddush and becoming a
truly holy people.