Purim is nuts. A rational person cannot celebrate Purim, nor can those who believe they know who they are. Because the joy of PurimA rational person cannot celebrate Purim. means leaving all reason and sense of self behind.

Purim is the ultimate joy, and the only way to experience that joy is to break out of yourself. Not by making yourself happy, not by doing those things you enjoy, not by sticking to your life, your friends, your family and remaining the person you are so comfortable being.

No. By playing the clown, by taking the risk of making yourself look like a total idiot, acting insane, or better put: allowing the insanity within you to burst out—in a way that brings smiles to strangers on the street, uplifting all around, even those who had lost all hope for joy.

The light of Purim knows no bounds.

What, Me Jewish?

Why Purim? What happened in Shushan on this day that is cause for such madness?

What happened is that the Jewish people took ownership of their Jewishness. And they did that at a time when it was utter madness to do so.

That’s the subtext to the Megillah, They took ownership of their Jewishness at a time when it was utter madness to do so.often ignored. We’re told that Haman’s decree of total annihilation was upon the “Yehudim”—the Jews. The implication is that any Jew could easily slip out of this predicament.

Any Jew could just say, “What, me Jewish? I speak Farsi. I dress Farsi. I eat Farsi food. I celebrate Farsi celebrations. I’m just another Farsi like you.”—and be totally clear of danger.

And that would be the sensible thing to do. You’ve lost your land. Your temple lies in ruins. The prophet Jeremiah promised the exile would last seventy years. The elders have counted, and the seventy years, by their accounting, is up.

Work on a second Temple had begun, there had been a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel—and then, it was shut down, the light cruelly snuffed out.

So what gives you a right to exist? What sense does it make to have “laws that are different from all other people” while you are “scattered among the nations?” G‑d has abandoned you, for heaven sakes. Why identify with your people, with your practices and beliefs, when that identity means only persecution and hatred?

If so, what the Jews did was absurd. They said, “We are Jews. We were born Jews. We will die Jews.” And they fasted and prayed, and then fought for their lives.

Purim as Marriage

Purim is the day we became married to G‑d, and to each other.

Until the days of King Achashverosh,Purim is the day we became married to G‑d, and to each other the Talmud tells us, the Jewish people had never really accepted the Torah. They were coerced. “G‑d held Mount Sinai over their heads,” the Talmud tells us. Rabbi Yehudah Loewe of Prague explains that as a figurative reference to the abundance of love He showed them, until they had no other choice.

The person of your dreams takes you out in a flashy Lamborghini, treats you to a lavish feast at the finest restaurant, showers you with jewelry and poetry of love, and then suggests marriage. Do you have a choice?

So too, G‑d swept us out of slavery on eagle’s wings, drowned our oppressors in the sea, fed us manna from heaven, and then whispered in our ears sweet words, “I want you to be mine.”

We were coerced. A deal made under coercion is not a deal. At any point, the Talmud tells us, we had the right to step out of the whole thing.

Until the days of Achashverosh. Because then, there were no eagle’s wings, no bread from heaven, no signs or wonders—and nevertheless, we stood with our Beloved.

Why? There is no explanation.

But we are still here. Absurdly.

Purim and Insanity

Let me get this straight: If religion and G‑d is an answer to all questions, and an answer to all questions is all that’s needed so I can have meaning in life—then I’m out. Then our entire history doesn’t work. Our attitude towards life, our arguments with G‑d, with His Torah, with each other, the sanctity we attribute to tomes of holy disputes, most of them unresolved—these have no place. There can be no Jewish people.

Yes, we are an educated and intelligent people. But true intellect is that which is forever escaping its bounds, seeking something beyond, something entirely transcendent, and discovering that transcendence in every artifact of existence. True intellect knows that which it cannot know.

And trueTrue intellect is forced to admit that no being can ever discover its meaning on its own. intellect is forced to admit that no being can ever discover its meaning on its own. It simply does not have the context to do so. And true intellect is forced to acknowledge that the true reality is not simply beyond the grasp of the three pounds of meat that constitute the human brain: True reality is beyond any grasp whatsoever.

If so, how have we held tight for almost four millennia to that which cannot be grasped? How have we found meaning in a marriage to a G‑d we call the Unknowable, Infinite Light?

The same as any marriage is sustained.

Any proper marriage, after all, is a case of sustained insanity. No one walks under the chuppah and commits to a lifetime with another person with a cold, calculated deportment of mind.

We call it “falling in love,” but truly it is a form of temporary insanity. And then the entire labor of marriage is to sustain that madness, reinvigorating it whenever it loses steam, allowing two selves to lose their minds over one another again and again.

Purim and the Post-Holocaust Revival

I identify with that. In a certain way, it happened again with my generation.

I am a child of the post-Holocaust. My generation are those who were bred on the image of the Jew as a skeleton behind the barbed wire of Auschwitz.

If there was a Holocaust documentary on TV, I had to watch it. When I went to the local JCC lounge to hang out with friends, the entire back wall was a mural of those deathly figures. If I was schlepped to the synagogue for whatever occasions, I doubt the rabbi ever managed to give a sermon without mentioning the six million.

The message was drilled, pounded, hard-wired and welded relentlessly into our little minds, until it became an essential part of our neural circuits: We are the people they hate. We are the people that are persecuted. If someone is looking for a people to persecute, to blame, to despise, to obliterate from the face of the earth, here we are.

As for G‑d and our religion, there was only one conclusion a sensible person could come to: G‑d had abandoned us and the deal was off.

Why, please tell me why, would any kid, normal or otherwise, want to stay in this club?

And then something so crazy happened. Barely a quarter century had passed since the implementation of the Final Solution, and a Jewish renewal began to flourish. We We returned, madly embracing that which our parents and grandparents had quite reasonably dropped by the wayside.returned, perhaps not in droves, but with pride, with chutzpah, with love, madly embracing that which our parents and grandparents had quite reasonably dropped by the wayside.

Why? I don’t know. We are a crazy people. We can’t let go of our G‑d.

The marriage ceremony never ends. I live now in Los Angeles. Fifty years ago, nobody would have believed that in Los Angeles, in 2018, a Jewish community would be flourishing as it is today. No one would have imagined what takes place on that mile-and-a-half strip of Pico Blvd. and its surrounds in Beverly Hills and Beverly Woods every Shabbat.

We are a miracle. An absurd miracle. A miracle of insane love.

In the Babylonian Talmud, Rava says, “On Purim, you must get drunk until you don’t know the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai.’”

We are drunk with wine, a deep, rich wine, aged over millennia. The wine of a love that can never be lost, a marriage that can never be broken.