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Making Demands

Here’s a repost of an item I just wrote for OneShul:

There are 4 mitzvot associated with Purim:

  • Hearing the Megillah
  • Eating a festive meal
  • Sharing food with friends (Mishloach manot)
  • Giving tzedakah

With regard to tzedakah, it is the ONE time of year when, if someone comes to your door asking for tzedakah, you MAY NOT ask them for their reference (in many communities you usually ask to see their referral from a local Rabbi, which is required of anyone collecting door to door because people have come through as part of a scam).

From this concept – that giving tzedakah is more than a general mitzvah but one specifically associated with the holiday; and that people may request without a referral – we understand that Purim is the one holiday where we can make requests of God without concern for whether or not we merit the request.

This resonates with me because of something I’ve struggled with for a while, which is the act of asking – 3 times a day – for help.  It dawned on me that God stands waiting, WANTING to help us but will not until we make the invitation.

Certainly God wants us to be strong, and able, and competant. God has no desire for us to be completely dependant.  But God wants to help, too. To be a partner with us in our growth.

So I’m learning – transitioning my kavannah from the general universal “help the Jewish people to…” or the outward-focused “I’m asking You to help so-and-so because maybe You didn’t notice that they needed it…” to the very specific and personal.

“Hashem, I’m asking for this help, these gifts of insight, rescue, healing, redemption, self-control, perspective, and yes, even cash (or at least the opportunity to earn my fair share) – for myself. Because at the end of the day, that’s the only person I have a right to ask for. Maybe the answer is “no”. Maybe it’s “not yet”. But I’m standing here, as hard as it may be, to fulfil my obligation to ask so that you have the opportunity to answer.”

BUT, when we pray on Purim, it is with the idea in our heart that God MUST grant our request regardless of whether we are deserving, regardless of whether we have the proper references to back it up. There is no option to refuse, or say “maybe”, or “not yet”. If we show up at God’s door, hat in hand, tzedakah must be given.

And *this* is one of the (appropriate, holy, etc) reasons why the holiday is associated with drinking. In order to “loosen up”, to lower our inhibitions, to give us a shot of liquid courage so that we could find within us the temerity to go before Our Creator and make a demand, and to do so with the idea that not only will we NOT be destroyed on the spot, but that our brazen request will be granted.

In Judaism, there is a time and a place for almost everything, including cohones.

As we pray Wednesday and Thursday, I hope we all find the courage to know what we truly need, and stand firm as we demand it with the real expectation of having our demands fulfilled.

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