Who am I? It is that essential, quintessential, burning question that we always ask ourselves. Growing up, I always worried that I was a mere compilation of the things I liked in other people. I had one friend’s laugh, another one’s gestures, and yet another one’s way of speaking. My biggest fear was that I would one day be thrown a surprise party, and all my different friends from different parts of my life would be there, in the same room, and quickly my facade would come crashing down, with them all simultaneously realizing that I was really a farce who just mimicked those around me.

It is true that many of the ways I acted and things I did may have originated from what I saw and liked in others. But as the years passed, they became a part of me, so much so that they no longer really represent the original laugh or tone that I was trying to copy. I became a conglomeration of those that I knew, those that I liked, mixed with “me,” whatever that really was.

I wear even more masks now than I once thought I didI’ve noticed, though, as the years pass that I wear even more masks now than I once thought I did. I find myself acting one way when I am teaching and around my students, another way around my friends, another way with my children, and yet another way when I am the child, around my parents. And these parts of me can seem so different that I am not sure I would be recognized if I acted like I did with my parents to my students, or vice versa.

The more I feel I am getting to know the real me, the more I realize that only parts of me can be revealed, depending on who I am with and where I am.

But recently I was given the gift of a lifetime. To celebrate our big 40th birthdays (she just had hers, and mine is in September), my best friend from childhood took me on a vacation. “Vacation” is a word not generally in my vocabulary, as the workaholic that I am has a hard time just letting go and relaxing. But this time it wasn’t hard. It wasn’t hard, because it was just me and my friend (okay, and a few other thousand people on the same cruise, but they didn’t count!). I was not with my children, my students, my husband or my parents. I was not with anyone I knew, except for the one person who has known me from the time I was fifteen.

In the 25 years we have known each other, we have both changed tremendously. I went from her beach-loving, sunny Californian friend to a mother of four, wife to a chassidic rabbi and living in Philadelphia. From the outside, we have nothing in common. And yet we share a bond, a connection, a friendship that transcends all that separates us. We do not eat the same food, we do not celebrate the same holidays, and we do not live a similar life in any shape or form, but she knows me, I know her, and we love what we know.

Recently I was given the gift of a lifetimeMore than the beauty of the Bahamas, or the luxury of sitting in the sun and not doing anything, was having four days to just be me. I was with someone who didn’t know my day-to-day life, but knew the person under all I did, and how I really think and feel on the deepest of levels. Our dinners lasted for hours, as we spoke about our thoughts, feelings and fears. We would cry from laughter, reminiscing about what we did as teenagers, and then cry from pain as we shared our most challenging experiences. When I was with her, my mask was off. And being around the real me was something I realized I don’t get to do very often.

We are about to celebrate the holiday of Purim. Purim is all about hiddenness. It is also all about overcoming obstacles, and recognizing and celebrating miracles. On Purim we dress up, we put on masks, we act like someone we are not. That is part of the fun and joy of the holiday. But that is not the ultimate goal. The point is to recognize that while things are hidden, that is not the ideal state of things. The goal is to reveal the hidden—as is the meaning of the name of the scroll we read on Purim, Megillat Esther, as Esther is the concept of hester, meaning hidden, and megillat is from the word megaleh, which means “to reveal.” So it is all about revealing what is hidden.

There is no question that hiding parts of ourselves is not only healthy but vital, depending on the circumstances. We should conceal our personal feelings or ideas in certain situations. Our workplace is not the place to share our political leanings or concerns, any more than our children should be privy to private conversations we have with our spouses. We hide a part of ourselves in order to be able to reveal the part of ourselves that are appropriate and necessary for the one we are connecting to. But it doesn’t mean that those other parts aren’t there, or are not important.

Being around the real me was something I realized I don’t get to do very oftenJust like G‑d’s name is not mentioned once throughout the whole megillah scroll, we never question if He was present or there. If anything, we are taught that every time it mentions The King (hamelech), that is a reference to our Creator. He is there, whether or not we can see Him.

This Purim, let’s celebrate the miracles in our lives, both those that are revealed and, even more importantly, those that are concealed. And let’s remember that even though we all wear masks, it doesn’t mean we have lost the real person behind it. But even more so, make sure every once in a while you take that time to just be you, all of you, with someone who gets it, knows it and loves it!