THE TWELFTH MONTH – SORROW INTO GLADNESS
We conclude another biblical calendar year with the injunction to be joyful. Historically, the month of Adar was not a particularly good one for the people of God, however, traditionally many Jewish families make posters or cards saying:
BE HAPPY! IT’S ADAR!
During Adar, the fun festival of Purim is celebrated; and here we find the reason for the happiness. We read all about it in Megillat Esther – the scroll of Esther. Our great God, who is as close as our next breath, had placed one of His people, a very wise Jew named Mordechai, and his beautiful, young adopted niece Hadassah (Esther) in Shushan, the capital of the mighty Persian Empire that stretched from India to Ethiopia. When the king decided to choose a new bride the most beautiful young women in his kingdom were brought to the palace and Esther was among them. According to the purposes of God, she was the one chosen by King Achashverosh to be his new Queen.
As you know, in every generation an enemy of God rises up in envy and pride with the aim to destroy and denounce Him by means of destroying His people. Think Pharaoh, Balak, Hitler, -— fill in the blanks! The villain of Esther’s generation was the wicked Haman, who devised an evil plot and tricked the king into signing an official edict that on the fourteenth of Adar all the Jews in his great empire – young and old, women and children, were to be attacked and murdered. The edict, sealed with the king’s ring, could not be revoked. All seemed hopeless…but… God! Esther and Mordechai called for a time of fasting and praying for His merciful intervention. Then Esther summoned all her courage and faith and approached the king without his invitation – an action punishable by death. He loved his beautiful bride, however, and instead she was given the opportunity to expose Haman and to have another edict sent which would warn the Jews and allow them to defend themselves. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had constructed with the intention to hang Mordechai, and the Jews were victorious on the day planned for their demise.
And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Achashverosh, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:20-22).
After enduring great fear and trepidation at the threat of annihilation, we are told in Esther 8:16, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.” Indeed, as we celebrate the month of Adar, so may it be for us all.
PART OF THE BODY: THE FACE
Children (of all ages!) love the festival of Purim. Apart from the delicious cakes, cookies, and candies that abound, part of the fun is that people get dressed up in ‘fancy-dress’ costumes and masks. These are meant to hide one’s identity, or maybe to portray a desired identity!? In the story of Esther, the face of God was hidden, as it were, and yet the deepest lesson we can learn is that He is, in fact, always there; whether or not we feel we clearly can “see” Him.
Another lesson is that true discernment, requires that we see beyond the physical facade — to look below the surface in order to not judge things by their outward appearance; just as our Father God does. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). “But You, O Lord, know me; You see me, and test my heart toward You.” (Jeremiah 12:3)
Our Father knows us intimately and sees our deepest hearts. He knows our motives; our thoughts and fears. Our own perception of things can be distorted when we see only what we want to see, as opposed to the reality. For example, we can become “blind” to truth when we believe we are right regarding an issue and stubbornly refuse to consider the possibility that we may be mistaken, or ignorant of certain facts. The Word of God also tells us that ulterior motives, such as bribery and corruption, lead to unfair judgment, when bad is called good and good bad (Deuteronomy 16:19). Our outward actions are the ‘fruit’ or manifestations of our inner thoughts and feelings.
A popular idiom tells us, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” The eyes undoubtedly are the most expressive parts of one’s face. They can shine beautifully with love or can throw looks like daggers. As author Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed: “An eye can threaten like a loaded and levelled gun, … or, in its altered mood, by beams of kindness it can make the heart dance with joy.”
William Shakespeare noted in Much Ado About Nothing: “Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes.” More kindly he described, “And as the bright sun glorifies the sky, so is her face illumined with her eyes” (Venus and Adonis).
The apostle Luke illustrated it well when he said, “The lamp of your body is your eye…” (11:34). Interestingly, there are seven openings in the face – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and one mouth. In Jewish mysticism the face is likened to the Menorah in the Holy Place of the Temple, and the seven openings are compared to its seven lamps. The pure olive oil that was used as fuel for the Menorah is compared to one’s mind, or intellect, which we trust are informed by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Spirit of Holiness.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that these seven “lamps” can only radiate the light of God if they are sanctified. Our senses – what we see, hear, speak, touch, and taste can be sanctified only by purifying our heart and our thoughts. We remember how, after he had been ‘face-to-face,’ as it were, with God on Mount Sinai, Moses’ face shone with such radiance that he needed to veil it in order to not frighten the Israelites. He had received the water of the Word of God directly from the Source and his heart and mind had been purified and the result shone through his countenance. The closer we can draw near to God – the more we can perceive His Presence and “see” His hand in every aspect of our lives, the more we will achieve a clear perspective of reality. We can pray, as did poet George Herbert, “Teach me, my God and King, in all things Thee to see.”
Are we seeking Him and recognising that all we have comes from His hand? Are we clinging to His hand in total faith and trust? Are we standing resolutely on His Word and constantly praying, with King David, “Send Your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3).
People experience some form of pain or frustration every day. Our challenge is to see beyond the pain and suffering of this world with the understanding that our lives are in His hands and that everything God does has a purpose for our ultimate and eternal good. His is an eternal Kingdom and we know that when our Messiah returns to the City of the Great King, “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
We have another wondrous promise from the prophet Isaiah, “Eye to eye you will see the Lord when he returns to Zion.” The Lord is comforting His people and redeeming Jerusalem and He will “…bare His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (52:10).
So, dear friends, may we, like the beautiful golden Menorah, be a vessel that allows His light of Love and Truth to shine in our lives, and may we rejoice always! HalleluYah!