As a young child I remember going to an amusement park with my family. Upon entering, we were approached by a couple of clowns. Children are supposed to love clowns. Their colorful outfits, their made-up faces, the fun they represent, are all an enticement to laughter and light-heartedness. My response, however, was quite the opposite. I was horrified. Who were these strange people? I was terrified and started to cry uncontrollably. They tried to pacify me but nothing worked. Then one of the clowns made a suggestion. He would take us backstage and remove the makeup, which had probably taken quite some time to apply. As soon as I saw his natural face, I calmed down and everyone was relieved, including the clowns.

There was some mystery that no one would explain to usWhen I think back to this incident, I see that it ties in with various themes that I experienced as a child, and with the theme of Purim which we are about to celebrate.

I belong to the "Second Generation" — children of survivors of the Holocaust. My parents met in Australia after the war, married and began a "new" life.

Being raised in such a family, I had experiences which are probably similar to that of many Second Generation children. My parents never openly discussed their experiences with my brother and me out of their concern for us, but somehow we knew that all was not as it seemed. Outwardly, we were living the same life as those around us. We went to the same school, we were involved in the same activities and subject to the same influences, but something was different about our family. There was some mystery that no one would explain to us. We experienced a dual reality.

Confusing and challenging as this was, it also attuned us to something very spiritual. There was a need to seek the truth. What was the truth about our parents' lives? What was it that they were not telling us? What was the hidden reality that they were concealing from us? That hidden reality seemed to have a tremendous impact on our superficial existence.

It is simplistic to attribute one's life choices to any single factor, but I am sure that the experience of growing up in a family of Holocaust survivors could have been one of the factors affecting my choice to live a Torah-observant life. It is true that it can also go the other way - opting for the physical reality that was not denied, and ignoring the hidden reality. But that is, after all, the nature of choice. It gives one the possibility of going either way.

The awareness of a hidden reality accustoms ones perception to something which is affirmed by Jewish philosophy, especially as expounded by Chassidut and Kabbalah.

The physical world is a concealment of the hidden realityTorah is known as "Torat emet," meaning, "Torah of truth." Within Torah, there are various levels of interpretation ranging from the simple explanation that is accessible to the five-year-old child, to the mystical or Kabbalistic level. We are told that there are seventy faces to the Torah. Even though each may differ slightly from the other, and some may seem to be in complete conflict, they are like the different colors present in a diamond. The beauty of the diamond lies precisely in its different colorings just as the beauty of the Torah lies in fathoming the unity of its various interpretations.

Torah validates our experience of a dual reality. The Hebrew word "olam" (world) stems from the Hebrew root, "he'elem" (concealment). The physical world is a concealment of the hidden reality of G‑dliness. If we were only to acknowledge the physical world, we would be in a state of denial of a greater reality. As Jews, our task is to navigate our way through life, acknowledging the reality that the world (by its very nature) conceals.

Rabbi Chaim of Tchernovitz, better known by his commentary, Be'er Mayim Chayim, was a student of Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov, who in turn was a student of the Baal Shem Tov. In his biblical commentary on the words, "they are a rebellious generation"1 he notes that the Hebrew word "l'hafoch" can be interpreted not only as "rebellious" but as "turning things around," or "transforming." (This word is found in the Megillah, as the Hebrew month of Adar, and more specifically Purim, are times of transformation.) The Be'er Mayim Chayim explains how it is possible to alter one's perception of one's experience in a way which reveals G‑dliness rather than concealing it. When we are capable of seeing that G‑d is behind our experiences, he explains, there is no need for G‑d to hide anymore. The Lubavitcher Rebbe2 further explains the importance of each individual's service of G‑d in this manner. For when each of us is redeemed from our own restrictions and limitations through acknowledging our Creator as the guiding force in our lives, it will result in the redemption of the whole world.

And just like a little child refuses to admit to a false reality, we have to stand firm in our belief and protest that there is a Reality behind the apparent reality, until G‑d finally removes the concealment and reveals the truth for all to see.