The Feast of Lots
Planning ahead

Holy days

This morning I went to shul for a short morning service, the reading of the Purim story, and a little ceremonial whiskey to mark the celebration. (Good thing I'd had coffee and a donut first!) There's more to Purim than I realized as a kid, when I thought it was just a dressing-up and making-noise kind of day. It is those things, yeah; but there's other interesting stuff going on. God, for instance, is never mentioned in the Megillah of Esther -- which the mystics take a sign that the book is imbued with the essence of divinity entirely beyond the binarism implied by names and naming. In other words, this most profane text (full of court intrigue, harems and eunuchs, and thinly-veiled sexual innuendo) is so holy it goes beyond any of the names for God which we can conceive.

Today seems to be holy for a lot of folks, actually. It's the Indian festival of Holi, a celebration of spring marked by merriment and shedding of inhibitions. (Hm. There's a lot of that going on.) An Indian friend of mine who lives in Singapore has told me wonderful stories about the custom of inundating people with color: colored powder flung out of windows, color exploding out of water balloons. (And the traditional beverage thandai sounds pretty tempting, though I think I'd go for it in its non-intoxicating form -- especially since I started my Purim morning with a nip of Johnny Walker red!)

Meanwhile, for Christians today is Good Friday, the day when Jesus' death is mourned. (Christian readers, help me out here: isn't March 25 also the Feast of the Annunciation, when his conception is celebrated? Having them coincide is quite a koan.) Karen has posted a powerful Good Friday sermon on her blog, which resonates for me across the differences between our traditions. "How simple it is to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television and feel that  swell of indignation that we all experience when we hear about a great injustice that has been done. And yet every day each one of us, in our own little way, gives quiet assent to the persons and policies that bring despair and death to humankind." Really worth a read.

It seems strange that today, when my tradition celebrates with costumes, percussion, and storytelling -- Purim, which some teach is the one holiday which will persist in the World to Come because it's a festival of unadulterated joy -- others are facing an annual dark night of the soul. There's a disjunction there, like a song being played in two keys at once.  Though I guess joy and sorrow coexist in the world, even on the holiest days. And I realize different faiths aren't all playing the same song -- at least, not in any melodic way we can recognize. In the (metaphorical) ears of God, I suspect there's harmony.