The joyous, boundary-breaking festival of Purim is next week and in preparation I have been learning a few maamarim (discourses). Last month at yeshiva (Lessons in Yeshiva) we started learning Al Kein Kar'u 5713 (1953) and since returning home I started listening to Rabbi YY Jacobson (link to my podcast with him) share a discourse from 5717 (1957). The first episode is Only When You Transcend Your Mind Can You Discover the Spark in Haman. As I write this I just finished the discourse, but the title of the first episode is the topic I’d like to talk about today and how it relates to our daily life and health.
The Talmud makes a seemingly unusual statement regarding the required festive meal of Purim: “A person must become drunk until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’ In the discourse; however, it was shared that the famous Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572), known as the Arizal taught in Portal of Meditations that in this state of not knowing the difference (ad d'lo yada), a person should even be so drunk, so to speak, that he says ‘blessed is Haman.’ Using the conscious mind, that’s a bold statement! [If you’re not familiar with the story of Purim, hopefully you have deciphered so far that Haman is the evil character, while Mordechai is one of the protagonists, the Moses of his generation.]
How can we get to a state of being where the evil character is blessed? Isn’t it important to know what’s good and what’s bad? The answer is that it depends. Good and bad are subjective labels to things, which in case of knowing what’s moral or what’s healthy, is necessary and good in that it is beneficial to the individual and the collective. In the case of breaking a habit, starting a new habit, or improving an aspect of oneself, these labels can be attachments and ways that the body is refusing change due to fear of change. Labeling a thought, a feeling, or even one’s performance of activities as good or bad is, in a way, a rejection of it all being one. For example, if a person wants to stop being hard on himself, and he labels his thoughts, feelings, or actions that day as bad, then that label is in resistance what happened. Rather, it can feel unpleasant - as not every day will feel pleasant - and he compassionately asks himself, “what did I do well today?” and “since I have another opportunity at life tomorrow, what would I like to work on or get better at?” For other great questions, check out the article Keeping Your Head and Your Heart in the Game by Dr. Joe Dispenza.
The Talmud states that a person must become drunk; however our great sages and rabbis reveal the deeper meaning. It’s not simply drunk in the way we think through alcohol. This state of mind is where it’s all one; there’s no polarity. There is none besides G-d (ein od milvado) means that everything is one, which means both good and evil come from One. To “become drunk until [one] cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai’” is to elevate to a state where the consciousness mind does not resist that they’re one. It sees Haman, for example, for who he is beyond the actions which can be labeled as evil, a man created and sustained by G-d.
In conclusion, if a person has thoughts that veil the inner spark, like Haman, it is from resisting the thoughts that gives energy to the kelipah (the shell) - the thoughts, feelings, or actions that are negative. In simple terms, what you resist persists. The more you try and stop thinking about something, the more it’ll pop up in your head (Don’t think about Purple Elephants). When the Arizal taught that blessing Haman cannot be done consciously it is because consciously the brain will resist this idea, especially if the brain is in a high beta brain wave state (as discussed in some previous newsletters especially on meditation). It is only ad d'lo yada, beyond consciousness, that a person can go straight into and focus in on the thought to reveal the light within the kelipah i.e where the thought is coming from!
In silence, with a mindset of hishtavut (equanimity), one can, as the Baal Shemtov teaches in Tzava'at Harivash achieve hamtakah, a sweetening, of the thoughts of negativity to the point they no longer arise, but instead are transformed to positivity. This can follow, the teaching continues, only after hachna'ah, subduing, and havdalah, separation, from the kelipah. Havdalah can come through the practice of hishtavut because in a state of equanimity there is no judgement or reactivity towards a thought, for example. There might be a tendency to push away or refusal to think certain thoughts, like that of Haman, but if we can generate the courage within to sit with and observe it, in the way a scientist observes an experiment, the root of that particular unpleasant thought will rise, revealing to the observer the light within. In turn, there’s deep healing that comes. No hangover.
To learn more about this check out the link on equanimity above or the talk I gave Responding to the Thief in my Head. Also, read the newsletter #49 Take off your clothes! where I discuss a similar topic and share how “meditation- also in afloat tanksession - can be a powerful, liberating tool.”