The Context of Purim

Purim and the month of Adar.

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Reprinted with permission from Iyyun, an institute for the exploration of the deeper dimensions of Torah.

"For Haman…had plotted to destroy the Jews, and ha cast a pur (lottery) to terrify and destroy them; but when she (Esther) appeared before the King, he commanded…that the evil scheme which he (Haman) had devised against the Jews, should recoil upon his own head…."

Megillat Esther, 9:24-25

The Sefer Yetzirah, among other texts, reveals the unique energies, themes and spiritual practices corresponding to each month of the year. When we look into this mystical information on the month of Adar, we can crack the code of Purim…and find out why it is that we are still cracking up today.

israeli children dancing on purimEvery holy day has both a narrative (the miracle that happened), and a seasonal context (the time of year when the miracle happened). In a sense, it is the seasonal context that gives rise to the narrative. The spiritual matrix of Adar gives rise to the day of Purim.

The Letter-Combination of the Month

There are four letters in the name of Hashem (Yud, Hei, Vav, and Hei). Each month of the year has an inner light that is refracted as a different sequence of these four letters. The sequence corresponding with the month of Adar is Hei – Hei – Yud – Vav. This is, in a sense, an inverse image of the name of Hashem. In the design of the normal spelling, there is first a 'giver' (Yud), then a ‘receiver’ (Hei); then another 'giver' (Vav) and another receiver (Hei). In Adar’s sequence, first come the receivers, followed by the givers.

This reversal reminds us of when Haman's destructive decree was reversed. Although the day of Purim was supposed to be when we would receive our end and demise, we came out on top. The day was transformed into a joyful festival of giving gifts.

The Letter of the Month

The alphabetical letter corresponding to Adar is Kuf.

Kuf represents kedushah, 'holiness.' Yet, the word kuf means 'monkey'--bringing up images of play and mockery. Similarly, the Zohar says the letter Kuf represents imitation. That is, Kuf imitates the letter Hei, the only other letter that has two separate lines in its graphic design.

Kuf represents 'earthly kingship,' whereas Hei represents the 'Divine kingship.' It may seem that the earthly plane is ruled by randomness and chaos and mockery, and that the Divine has hidden its face. However, Purim teaches us that despite these appearances, the Holy One can reveal the ever-existing Divine kingship, at any time. To see the miraculous within earthly history, we must see that everything in this world imitates what is in the World Above.

On Purim, many have a custom of dressing in costume, hiding their identity behind masks, or playfully imitating others. When your earthly identity is altered, it can be easier to reveal who you really are.

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Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Rabbi DovBer Pinson is the Rosh Yeshiva of the IYYUN Yeshiva, a Yeshiva for adults. He is also the founder of the IYYUN Center, a center for Jewish enrichment in Brooklyn, New York, and and is the author of more than ten books on Kabbalah and spirituality.