When the Age of Shalom is attained, when every one’s messiah “finally” (as in End of Days as we know them) shows up, Jewish observances and rituals will no longer be necessary, since they will have served their purpose.
What a world it will be when people are intuitively and consistently nice, attentive and respectful to each other and to everyone. No more hurt feelings and no more focusing on life’s negatives. It seems an impossible goal, made all the more unattainable by the limits we place on imagination and the knowledge we have of thousands of years of documentation of human beings not growing much in interpersonal relations. The threats and traumas with which humankind lives here and now bear witness.
The Torah’s opening with the Garden of Eden implies a vision to remind humanity that the larger goal is to return to that Garden, i.e. identified in varying ways by different spiritual systems: the Age of the Messiah, the Age of Shalom among them. The focus and purpose of the mitzvah system is to put teachings of Torah into action. Doing so generates conditions conducive to bringing such a Day and Era into being. The mitzvah strategy is straight forward: do the best you can to make each moment a blessing, something good for you and for those with whom you share the experience. So, when that day comes and everyone lives that way, Jewish ritual will cease to apply save the celebration of two holidays, according to rabbinic tradition: Sukkot and Purim.
Sukkot the Jewish thanksgiving holiday celebrating the harvests of all humankind would be a fitting tribute to the new age from out of the memories and dreams of the old. But why Purim, and why Purim rather than any of the other holidays we know so well?
While Sukkot is a pure and total celebration of life’s blessings, Purim celebrates the specific harvest of good triumphing over evil. It is a most pleasing and enjoyable way of “reflecting” on an unpleasant subject: the hurts and ills that people have inflicted on others without cause (not that “cause” makes it right), throughout the ages.
Aside from the Purim we know from the Book of Esther taking place in ancient Persia (and celebrated at CBI on March 11), there is a tradition in European and North African history of local Jewish communities establishing their own particular Purim commemorations on the dates on which they escaped dire circumstances, threats of annihilation resulting from cruel decrees somehow annulled just in time. Far too often the annulment never came and lives and Shtetls (local Jewish villages) were lost. However, on those occasions when the threat was averted people made of them festive days of gratitude in remembering what almost happened. Celebrating survival of near destruction with joy and nervous laughter began with the original Purim.
If Sukkot will be included as part of the energy and attitude of the age of Shalom, Purim will also be included as an eternal reminder of how the world will have narrowly averted its own destruction in overcoming human hurtfulness, destructiveness and cruelty perpetrated throughout the ages. Such a celebration will serve to remind the generation that attains the age of Shalom, and future generations, how easily things can go wrong when people lose their balance or their way. Under the best of circumstances Purim will evoke a memory worthy of a feeling of embarrassment for an enlightened world looking back at the way human beings, long before, used to behave for reasons beyond anyone’s comprehension.
Plan to enjoy Purim with us on March 11 and have a good laugh and party hardy, even as we share dreams of ways to move out of societal morass toward the light and energy that will keep us focused on attaining Purim in the Age of Shalom.