The Meaning of Purim
Purim, which takes place on the 14th of Adar, is the holiday of opposites. It connects between happiness and despair, concealment and revelation, Mordechai and Haman, exile and redemption.
Purim (which stems from the word “Pur” [“lot”]) is the ideal spiritual situation, the final correction (Gmar Tikkun). It is a state where a person’s desires are corrected with the intention in order to bestow, and one becomes united with all desires, thus filling one’s desire with the Creator’s revelation (i.e. the revelation of the quality of bestowal and love that connects among all desires).
- The Spiritual Meaning of Purim
- The Story of Purim
- How the Purim Story Repeats Throughout History
- The Meaning of Purim Customs and Concepts According to Kabbalah
- The Difference Between Mordechai’s and Haman’s Approaches
- The Meaning of the People of Israel Uniting and Giving Esther the Power to Address the King
- The Meaning of Mordechai Getting Honored by the King
- The Meaning of Wearing Masks and Costumes During Purim, Eating Cookies Called “Haman’s Pockets,” and Getting Drunk
- Further Reading on Purim
Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther) describes forces that unfold in the person. These forces are what a person attaining spirituality discovers in connection with the Creator. They manage everything taking place in everyone’s lives, and have been given the names Mordechai, Esther, Haman, as well as many others.
The story of Purim unfolds before the construction of the Second Temple, soon before the Aliyah (ascent) to the land of Israel. It depicts the final battle before the final correction (Gmar Tikkun). At this stage, the people of Israel, the innermost desire within the person that aspires to spirituality, live calmly and peacefully in the kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Mordechai, the spiritual desire that wants only to adhere to the Creator (the quality of bestowal and love), lived happily and the kingdom was at peace.
The people of Israel represent the majority of the desires that want to go straight to the world’s leader to learn the law of the universe (the word “Israel” comes from the words “Yashar Kel” [“straight to God”]).
Indeed, in the beginning of the story, the narrative suggests that there is something wrong: “There is one nation that is scattered among the nations.” This passage can also be read as “There is one desire that is scattered among the desires.” It is this nation, Israel, the desire for spirituality (a desire of bestowal and love), that is supposed to be united against all other nations, which are desires for self-gratification. The strength of the desire for spirituality (Israel) comes only from its unity, so when it is dispersed, it signifies that the person has not yet fulfilled his destiny, for only the people of Israel (the united desire for bestowal and love above all other desires) can lead the other nations (all other desires for self-gratification) to the common goal, adhesion with the Creator.
The evil Haman, who represents the egoistic desires in the person, wants to exploit the situation for personal gain. He eventually wants to overthrow the king from his throne. Haman believes that the fact that the people of Israel, the Jews, are dispersed testifies to their weakness, confusion and lack of faith. Therefore, he finds the situation to be a rare opportunity to eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth, as they are the sole force that stands between him and exploiting the Creator.
What Haman fails to understand, however, is that the Jews are dispersed for a reason: The Jews’ dispersion (i.e. the dispersion of the small amount of spiritual desires among the large amount of egoistic desires) is in order for all desires to acquire the form of bestowal and love, i.e. that spiritual unity comes in integration and perfect balance with all desires, and not in separation to them. Indeed, we will see the truth of it when at the end of the story, all people reform. The meaning is that all the desires in the person, called “people,” accept the spiritual desires that leads to confidence and happiness, called “Israel.”
The Israel in a person (the altruistic part) is limited. That limitation can only be overcome by the evil Haman. That is why we need to find the Haman (the egoistic part) within us.
The beginning of the story depicts how Mordechai saved the king from the two assassins Bigtan and Teresh. Naturally, we would expect the king to pay him for his deed, perhaps give him a raise, or any other kind of reward.
But it’s not quite that simple. Since Mordechai is the Israel in the person, and thus wants no personal gain, but only to be in contact with his maker, he thus cannot be given any reward. The altruistic, spiritual desire rejects any such reward.
Thus, to our surprise, we read that it is not Mordechai who becomes honored, but Haman, who out of all candidates is awarded the honor, when the king appoints him head of all ministers. Haman gains total domination of the kingdom and all the king’s slaves are ordered to bow before him. In other words, egoism has risen to its maximal proportion.
Of all people, only Mordechai refuses to bow before anyone but the king himself. The reason is that there is always a voice in a person that says who the real king is and to whom one should remain loyal, whatever the cost. Mordechai is the only one who still remembers it, while the whole town of Shushan is bewildered and confused, and Mordechai’s life is threatened for choosing loyalty to his king rather than to Haman.
It is only through magnifying Haman’s ego to the proportion it grew that the people could realize how right Mordechai’s way was.
“Society has a great demand from the Jew, that he should cease to be aloof, that he should stop his abuse of the world, that he should stop relating to Jewish groups as the goal of all his profits, and that he should start fulfilling the ancient prophecy, since it is by that that all the nations on earth will be blessed.” – Henry Ford, The International Jew.
Jews disperse among the nations, forget about their role—to unite (“love your friend as yourself”) and spread that unity to the world (“be a light unto nations”)—find a way to live happy enough lives, only taking care of their corporeal needs: food, sex, family, money, honor, control and knowledge. They get themselves comfortable in an unconscious slumber, staying asleep as to what made them Jews in the first place: their unity (the Hebrew word for “Jew” [Yehudi] comes from the word for “united” [yihudi]).
What Made Jews “Jews” in the First Place?
The Jewish people are a nation founded on a common unity that was formed above all the corporeal desires, in a completely new intention they worked on constructing, and which they discovered.
That intention became the solution to all of their problems as it gave them the ability to rise above their differences and experience a mutual connection with each other and nature.
That intention was nothing other than love, or more precisely, love for others.
It is the only nation that is founded on developing an attitude of love of others by extracting the potential out of a desire that was given to this nation, one which was not given to other nations. It is a desire beyond the:
- corporeal individual desires for food, sex and family, and also beyond the
- corporeal social desires for money, honor, control and knowledge.
What Is the Additional Desire of the Jews?
Psychologists have pointed out the higher desire as being “self-realization.” The wisdom of Kabbalah calls it a “desire for the meaning of life.” It also calls it a “desire for spirituality,” because if this desire is developed to resemble a spiritual form, then a revelation of spirituality appears within it.
Another name given to it is a “desire for connection,” because the spiritual state is one of absolute connection with the interconnected and interdependent reality, most notably, with other people: not at the bodily level we see and feel in our five senses—sight, touch, hearing, taste, touch—but at the level of a common intention of love, giving and unity above division.
One more name for this desire is the “point in the heart.” “Heart” represents corporeal desires—food, sex, family, money, honor, control and knowledge—and “point” represents the seed of the desire to connect in a common intention of love and bestowal above the corporeal desires: a seed that requires the proper environment in order to grow into its fullest, natural potential.
This is why it’s written that the Jewish people became Jews when they united “as one man with one heart,” under the commandment “love your neighbor as yourself.” Moreover, their unity had a positive rippling effect throughout humanity. It unlocked the conscious ability for humanity to experience a more positive connection, like a common mutual understanding and feeling of every person as belonging to a single family.
That sublime degree of unity the Jews once discovered and brought to humanity later fell apart as the ego continued growing. They dispersed among the nations, and both they themselves and the nations forgot about their experience of total unity as a more egoistic human consciousness settled in. They assimilated among nations with natural foundations, nations that required no special effort to unite above their differences, nations sharing a connection based on their corporeal levels of needs.
That desire for the meaning of life, spirituality, connection, a harmoniously functioning society fueled with a common attitude of unity above division—the point in the heart—became buried in the heart of earthly desires, and the Jews found themselves making their way in life through the unfolding evolution of the desires seeking corporeal fulfillment.
As a result, Jews disproportionately excelled and continue to excel in finance, science, medicine, the arts and technology. It is due to this spiritual “boost” they received in their desire, the seed of a higher level of a united collective consciousness, which became a genetic strand driving a more dominant egoistic frequency into the collective consciousness, one that ultimately conceals the single force of love, bestowal and connection behind the way we see the world.
How Jews Became Jews
The Jews originally became Jews by undergoing a special educational process, which progressed by the following stages:
- Research of their thoughts, desires and intentions,
- Discovery of a surrounding force of unconditional love and giving concealed behind their thoughts, desires and intentions,
- Awareness of the human self-centered, egoistic intention as a negative, destructive force, blocking human perception off from the positive, constructive force of love and bestowal,
- Labor to rise above the self-centered, egoistic intention and to mutually love, bestow and connect to each other,
- Prayer – a genuine request to unite above their differences the more they saw that the growing ego was dividing between them, and
- Attainment (attainment = clear perception and sensation) of the single force of unconditional love and giving, which united them.
Today’s Jews are content with self-love. Their dispersion among the nations gives them justification to live that way, moving up the ranks and succeeding in what the nations of the world respect: money, honor, fame, power and knowledge.
However, as the corporeal desires become satiated, growing to such an extent that we feel less and less satisfied with everything we create to keep ourselves busy, and as the resulting increasing amounts of problems start revealing from everyone trying to profit off of each other—crises on personal, social and global scales, such as the rising rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicide, drug abuse, crime and terror to name a few—then the more the lack of positive connection in society is felt, the more people start thinking that there is a problem with the Jews.
They point out all kinds of negative phenomena, such as Jews holding most of the world’s money and power, having disproportionate influence over all kinds of countries they assimilated into, as well as blaming the State of Israel for being an oppressive regime over Palestine.
The rising hatred toward Jews is the anti-Semitic Haman in the Purim story. He becomes fiercely fueled by the idea where “I need to get rid of all these Jews.” Haman’s purpose, i.e. the reason for all anti-Semitic sentiment, is in order to pressure the Jews to question their identity, to ask about what made them Jews in the first place and why they are being hated. Ultimately, this is in order to bring the Jews to the same revelation that their ancestors had: the revelation of the single force of unity, love and giving, which unites them above their differences, and to be a conduit for this unifying tendency to spread among the totality of human consciousness.
In the Purim story, Haman claims that the Jews fail to observe the commandment of King Ahasuerus (Megillat Ester, 3:1-6), which is correct.
That is, anti-Semites emerge to remind the Jews about their role: to unite and be a conduit of unity to the world. By doing so, they believe that they uphold the king’s commandment. Mordecai then emerges in the Purim story as the one telling the Jews to wake up from their slumber, providing them with leadership and direction to unite above their distance from each other.
Since they feel at risk of death, they follow Mordecai’s lead and start working on their unity.
They understand that their dispersion among the nations no longer operates in their favor. The nations become as the promoted Haman (Megillat Ester, 3:1), pressuring the Jews to identify with and carry out their role: to unite above their dispersion, and be an example of that kind of unity, which the world needs more and more of today.
What Is the Uniqueness of the Purim Story Playing Out in Our Times?
The uniqueness of the Purim story playing out in our times is that there has never before been a situation where anti-Semitism is rising globally, from New Zealand to the UK, simultaneously in the United States, Europe, Russia, Asia and the Middle East.
Since people worldwide feel increasing social division as an intensifying problem, the more they instinctively feel that Jews are to blame for this problem, and the myriad problems in life stemming from it.
Therefore, today’s Purim story is global in nature.
Jews globally are under increasing threat of growing anti-Semitic sentiment, i.e. under threat from a “global Haman,” and will continue being pushed into a corner where they will either have to follow the leadership and direction of Mordecai, i.e. to unite above their division and dispersion, or suffer a major blow at such a global scale that we have not yet seen before… and we never forget what happened before, do we?
The Difference Between Mordechai’s and Haman’s Approaches
The difference between Mordechai’s and Haman’s approaches is the core around which the story of Purim revolves.
Haman wants to exploit the king and use him to control the kingdom. He thinks only of his own gain, and epitomizes the most volatile force—the self-gratifying desire for power—to rule the world at all cost, even that of his own destruction.
On the contrary, Mordechai’s sole aim is to remain loyal to the true king, and to learn from the true king how to best apply and conduct himself. Therefore, Mordechai cannot be bribed in any way. He can stand at the king’s castle and guards the gate while everyone bows before Haman. There is no price to his loyalty. He knows that the day will come when everyone will realize who the true king is, but he also understands that he cannot impose his thoughts and direction in life on others.
Haman gets control of the kingdom, precisely for the purpose of increasing his desires. Egoism is revealed so that the person will recognize the destructive forces that dwell within. Haman decides to utilize the power he’s been given in order to carry out his plan to destroy his primary enemy—the Israel in the person.
He carefully plans his actions, prepares the tree and the rope, confident that in a few moments, the person who stands between him and his dreams of power, will be eliminated.
Haman is then asked, “What is to be done with the man whom the king holds dear?” Being certain that it is him the king holds dear, he suggests that he’d be seated on a horse (another inner desire in the person) and publicly declare: “Thus will be done with the man the king holds dear.”
The Meaning of the People of Israel Uniting and Giving Esther the Power to Address the King
At this point the people of Israel unite. Their collective prayer for the success of Esther’s mission, representing the force of faith (i.e. force of bestowal), mends what at first appeared to be a separation among the people. That correction allows Esther to address the king directly, which is the great miracle of Purim. Prior to that, no one could address the king in such a way. Only the united force of the people, in prayer for help, gave Esther the necessary defense to come out of hiding (in Hebrew, Esther [Hester] extends from the same linguistic root as “Hastara,” which means “concealment”) and into the revelation of the king’s face. She discovers the king’s true aim, which is to bestow goodness to all people.
Then Haman (the egoism in the person) discovers this fraud, but it is too late. He discovers that the purpose of one’s work is to discover the king’s domination and benevolence. He realizes that he was but a tool in the hands of the king, whose true desire was to cultivate Mordechai.
But at this point he cannot change the sentence he himself had passed.
It is but for the great desire of Haman to rule the kingdom, that Mordechai gets the honor and publicity he deserves.
The Meaning of Mordechai Getting Honored by the King
Therefore, the person’s desires discover the King’s (i.e. the Creator, the source of bestowal and love) intent to bestow to His creatures and the right way to reach Him, the way of the Israel (spirituality) within.
Israel is the desire in the person to be in perpetual contact with He who runs reality, with the King. It is the constant thought about who and what governs our lives, and the utilization of every opportunity to strengthen the bond with the Creator (i.e. the source of bestowal and love). Israel never despairs when facing grave difficulties along the way, for there is certainty that all difficulties will ascend in order to discover the King’s benevolence. Israel sees the purpose of life as being to come into contact with the Creator by uniting all desires through lines of bestowal and love. Israel writes the story of Esther by making actions to the concealment of the Creator to His revelation.
The Meaning of Wearing Masks and Costumes During Purim, Eating Cookies called “Haman’s Pockets,” and Getting Drunk
The custom to wear masks and dress up in costumes on Purim came about because Haman (the egoistic desire) dresses into the clothing of Mordechai (the altruistic desire), which means that we can receive the Creator’s revelation (the revelation of the quality of bestowal and love) into the great desires of Haman through the qualities of Mordechai.
This is also why on the Purim holiday it is customary to eat cookies in the shape of a triangle called “Haman’s pockets.” A pocket symbolizes the desire to receive. We have to receive these desires from Haman and then, with the help of Mordechai, by means of the Light of Hassadim, the quality of bestowal, correct them with the intention for the sake of bestowal. Once we have an intention to bestow, we will be able to receive the Light of Hochma, the revelation of the Creator, which is the state of the final correction. This full filling of the spiritual vessel with the Light of Hochma is the reason for the custom of getting drunk on Purim, as alcohol has its spiritual root in the Light of Hochma, and it is permitted to receive this Light completely after one has analyzed and clarified one’s desires completely, i.e. one has hung Haman and his ten sons on a tree, meaning that one does not receive any of that illumination with an egoistic intention, because one’s intention has been fully corrected in the direction of bestowal.
Further Reading on Purim
Articles by Dr. Michael Laitman
- Meet the Purim Cast to Understand What’s Happening in Our World Today (Best Screenplay Award Goes to God) – Huffington Post
- Shushan and Berlin—Differences and Similarities – Ha’aretz
- How Purim Can Help Us Navigate Today’s Political Reality – Algemeiner
- The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful – Downloadable PDF
- Why Is Purim Such a Great Festival? – Downloadable PDF
Posts in Dr. Michael Laitman’s Personal Blog
- The Purim Holiday In The Light Of Spiritual Correction
- The Purim Holiday
- The Characters Of Purim: Haman
- Feeling Purim
- The Spiritual Meaning Of Purim & Its Relevance Today
- The Great Light Of Purim
- Purim Signifies The Birth Of A Corrected World
- Purim Story: How We Became The People Of Israel
- The History Of Purim: Revelation Of The Concealed
- The Scroll Of Esther: Purim Here And Now
- Purim: Providing Example of Unity Will Stop Anti-Semitism
- The Hidden Meaning Of The Scroll Of Esther
- Drunken From Wholeness
- The Scroll Of Esther: Collective Punishment
- What Will Become Of Religion After The Full Correction?
- Behind The Scenes At A Shadow Theater
- Celebrating The Victory Of Intention
- Kabbalistic Holidays
- The Day Of Love
Material on Purim and the Jewish holidays by the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute
- The Meaning of the Jewish Holidays – chapter from the book, The Path of Kabbalah
- The Spiritual Meaning of the Jewish Holidays – app for Android, iPhone and iPad
The Meaning of the Jewish Holidays Series