News From Ramaz
By Rabbi Justin Pines, MS Mashgiach Ruchani
On a hot summer day, is the first bite of an ice cream good or bad? What about a new pair of Yeezys? Or hustling for a loose ball in a Ramaz 7th grade basketball semifinal game and calling timeout before you fall out of bounds ? Or working really hard on a project? Or successfully going to the bathroom?
Are these good or bad actions?
On Purim, we read of a society obsessed with material things. Achashverosh throws huge parties. Chazal teach us that one of the reasons our ancestors lives were threatened was they took part in these parties. Yet when the Jews of Persia were saved, what do they do? They throw big parties to celebrate. Why was partaking in Achashverosh' party so bad, while the celebrating with parties when they were saved was okay? The difference is that in the first party, partying with Achashverosh did not in any way help them to connect with Hashem; they were just joining the materialism of the society around them. In the parties after they were saved, they were celebrating their survival as a people and Hashem's role in saving them.
Purim is the holiday when we take the physical and make it Kadosh. Just as we read in this week's parasha that a Kohen turns a Korban from a regular object or animal into a way to passionately connect with Hashem, so too on Purim we take regular objects and use them to passionately connect with Hashem. We give Matanot L'evyonim and Mishloach Manot - money or food that was not previously good or bad now becomes good because we use it to help someone in need or to show our friendship with a neighbor. We join a Purim seudah, a feast, to celebrate Purim and to celebrate with friends and family. An early dinner becomes a way to passionately connect with Hashem and our community.
On Purim we are reminded that the material world is an opportunity to passionately connect. We say a bracha before eating that melting ice cream, and maybe we share it with a friend. We wear our Yeezys to walk to visit a friend who is sick. We save the basketball and call timeout in the context of representing our yeshiva as a mensch, and working hard all season with our classmates to accomplish a goal as a team. And we pause to thank Hashem when we go to the bathroom. Even something as unexciting as going to bathroom can be used as an opportunity to pause and passionately connect. This week, may we together use the material world to passionately connect. May we turn the physical world into a world of Kedusha.