Friday, March 18, 2011

Purim Costumes: Way Deeper than You Thought

~Please feel free to print this out and read it over Shabbos Kodesh, just please not during Tefilos. Enjoy!~

We take it for granted that everyone dresses up on Purim. We’ve been told that this is because just like Hashem hid behind the costume of seemingly natural events to generate the miraculous salvation of Purim, so too we hide ourselves. But we need ask a question that is one step deeper. Firemen, Aladin, Pirates, The Muffin Man – all sorts of secular cultural icons show up at our Purim feasts. It’s one thing to dress up, but why does it all of sudden become okay to dress like a Goy?

Like all things, in order to understand the true essence of costumes we need to investigate as to what the first time that we encounter them in the Torah. And to do so we need to look no further than Parshas Bereishis. We need to understand the ‘costume’ that Hashem gave to Adam HaRishon.

After the sin of the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra - The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives to Adam what the verse calls Kasnos O’r (O’r is spelled Ayin-Vav-Daled), Garments of skin to wear before kicking him out of Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden.

There is an interesting Midrash connected to the Kasnos which says that in the Torah of Rebbe Meir the Tana, the word for skin - O’r - was written with an Alef - Or, meaning ‘Light’. His Torah said that Hashem gave Adam HaRishon a cloak made of light.

Based on the words of The Ramchal and The Leshem Shvo V’Achlama we can understand the dramatic tragedy of the Kasnos O’r with an Ayinand its contrast of the Kasnos Or with an Alef.

It’s brought down from the Ari’zal that before Adam HaRishon sinned by eating from the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra, the universe existed in a qualitatively different state. We experience physical things and spiritual things. Lunch is physical - Gashmius. Praying Kabbalas Shabbos with a fervor; that’s spiritual - Ruchnius. Clearly our experience of Gashmius is much more attainable and recognizable to our senses.

But that’s only now. Says the Ari’zal, before the sin, Adam HaRishon experienced our Ruchnius as his Gashmius, meaning that what we call spirituality was to him how we experience lunch, and if that’s the case, then we don’t have the words to describe what his spirituality was like. By sinning he brought everything down a notch – resulting in the universe as we know it.

Therefore, before his sin, Adam HaRishon’s body was a comparatively spiritual entity, Kasnos Or with an Alef - a body of Light. Therefore the Noam Elimelech explains, it was specifically in the Torah of Rebbe Meir, whose very name means ‘Makes Light’ that we are taught what the ideal universe was supposed to be like. But because of the sin we went from Kason Or with an Alef to Kasnos O’r with an Ayin, bodies of flesh.

This is the first costume in the Torah. HaKadosh Baruch Hu took Adam HaRishon’s essence, which was a Kasnos Or, a body of light and covered it, dressed it up with Kasnos O’r with an Ayin, a Body of Flesh.

The Kasnos O’r that was given to Adam post-sin make another appearance in the Torah, a few Parshios later in Parshas Toldos.

The stage was set for a tremendous calamity to occur. Eisav HaRasha was going to be blessed by Yitchak Avinu. Although Yitzchak had good intentions, Eisav would have taken the empowerment given to him and used it against Yaakov. But as we know, Yaakov Avinu came in and stole the Brachos, he took the spiritual energy headed for Eisav and redirected it to the realm of holiness.

How did he do so? The Passuk tells us that Rivka Imeinu dressed up Yaakov in Eisav’s clothing so that Yaakov would be able to convince Yitzchak that in fact he was Eisav. The Passuk describes these clothing as Bigdei Chamudos, precious garments. Rashi brings down from the Midrash that these precious garments which belonged to Eisav were really stolen by Eisav from King Nimrod, who took them from Cham, the son of Noach who himself received them directly from Adam HaRishon. This mentality and focus on Kasnos O’r with an Ayin had made its way down to Eisav HaRasha.

Yaakov Avinu took the Kasnos O’r and entered into Yitzchak’s private quarters in order to receive the Brachos. The final words in the verse before Yitzchak gives the blessing is that he smelled from these garment the Reiyach HaSadeh Asher Beircho Hashem, the smell of the Field which Hashem blessed. Says Rashi, this smell of the blessed field was the smell of Gan Eden.

And now things come full circle. Says the Maor VaShemesh, Yaakov Avinu was able to direct the energy headed to Eisav because he took the Kasnos O’r with an Ayin and brought it back to Kasnos Or with an Alef, he took the flesh and turned it back into light. And therefore Yitzchak smelled Gan Eden - Yaakov Avinu brought it in with him.

How does this apply to Purim? The answer is that Mordechai HaTzadik really did the same thing with Haman. Haman HaRasha was empowered by Achashverosh to wipe out the Jewish people, but as we know from Chazal, this decree didn’t start with Achashverosh. It was really a Gezeira, a decree from heaven, and Haman was chosen to carry it out. And therefore he too had his own special garments that were headed to him. Achashverosh asked Haman how to properly honor someone and he responded by listing that all the special royal garments should be put on such a person.

At that stage in the Megilah, Haman was the empowered one! Those garments should have been his – a symbol of his power! But at the last the last second they are given to Mordechai, and that’s when the Megilah says that if lost this battle of the Levushim, the garments, then for sure Haman wont succeed. Mordechai’s wearing of the equivalent of Haman’s Kasnos O’r led to the eventual redirection of power from the death sentence over the Jews to their dramatic salvation and victory. And then after the victory came about in actuality, the Megilah says that Mordechai took over Haman’s position, meaning that he fully took his spritiual energy, and then the Passuk says that U’Mordechai Yatza MiLifnei HaMelech B’Levush Malchus - And Mordechai went out from before the king in Levush Malchus, royal garments. It’s no shock that the Zohar says that Levush Malchus means Garments which come from the spiritual reality called “Malchus” - Mordechai too had arrived at Kasnos Or with an Alef.

And this all makes a lot of sense in the light of a comment made by the Chida that Mordechai was really a Gilgul, a reincarnation of Yaakov Avinu.

We are taught that when we celebrate a holiday we aren’t simply commemorating it, rather we are re-living it. The light that came down which generated the original experience re-enters the world on that date every year. Thus on Purim the war that happened back then happens again. If we check the Megilah we see that at first there was a decree to kill the Jews, and then there was a decree for the Jews to defend themselves. We won, and we win again every year. But the interesting thing is that the first decree was never nullified. That means that this potential to lose the war also re-enters the world every year. Our wearing of pop-culture-inspired costumes is our way of transforming the Kasnos O’r with an Ayin into Kasnos Or with an Aled, just like Mordechai did and just like Yaakov did. That’s how we take the victory.

But how does this apply to my Bat-Man costume? The answer is that in my mind, I really do associate myself with my Garment of Flesh (body) much more than I affiliate with my Garment of Light (soul). If I’m mainly physical and somewhat spiritual then I automatically put a roof on how far I can grow spiritually. But when I look at my self in the mirror and I see myself in a costume, and then I get a little into the Purim mindstate (which may or may not take a few cups of wine [it does take a few cups of wine]) I begin to realize that my body too is only a costume. The real me is the Garment of Light, the Kasnos Or with an Alef.

If we can internalize this message, even of only for a few seconds, then we transform ourselves into vessels of massive spiritual capabilities – far greater than what we relate to the rest of the year. Hashem should give us a Bracha that we can, in our own little way – focus less on the Kasnos O’r with an Ayin and feel a little closer to our Kasnos Or with an Alef. A Freilachen Purim!

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