21 February 2013

Eunuchs: Heroes of Purim
Each year, we gather to celebrate Purim because, simply put, “The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the virgins” (Esther 2:17). And as a result, as we all know, Esther became queen and saved the Jewish people, saved our spiritual ancestors, from destruction.

But what if I said that we gather to celebrate because of a eunuch, a eunuch named Haggai (HAY-GUY)? What if I said that the intervention of this eunuch and others saved the Jewish people, saved our spiritual ancestors, from destruction?

Let’s take a closer look at Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther.  According to the text, Esther, a young virgin, shapely and beautiful, entered what was essentially a beauty contest. She, along with all the other beauties, were assembled “in the harem under the supervision of Haggai, the king’s eunuch, guardian of the women” (2:3).

The text goes on to tell us that Esther pleased Haggai and won his favor, “He hastened to furnish her with her cosmetics and her rations … and he treated her … with special kindness” (2:9). 

He treated her with special kindness.

The eunuch Haggai gave Esther a leg up, an advantage, helping her to win the contest, if you will, to become queen.

He personally supervised Esther’s year-long beauty treatments; “She did not ask for anything but what Haggai, the king’s eunuch, guardian of the women, advised” (2:15).

Can’t you hear Haggai saying to Esther:

“Leave everything to me, and you will win that contest. First you’ll need a Cool Jade Stone Facial, which is a refreshing and luxurious deluxe treatment that incorporates facial massage with chilled precious jade stones, cucumber and green tea extracts, lactic peel, and a soothing Collagen masque.”

And after the facial, Esther, my dear, I will personally give you a Lavender Luminescence Massage, just in time to ward off the winter woes.  This luxurious treatment includes a personal, stress-soothing, aromatherapeutic lavender candle, which, when lit, will create a warm vitamin-enriched oil to nourish your dry skin during a relaxing individually customized massage, excellent for cold tense muscles. What's more, the lavender candle is brand new, and yours to keep and reuse in the comfort of your future palace.

And after the massage comes the Shimmering Body Glow. This Caramel & Shea Butter Summer glow exfoliation and self tanner is ideal for the instant look of summer, sun kissed skin, without damaging sun exposure.  It’s followed by an even, head-to-toe application of a fabulous self-tanner to jump start your bronze body. The result is soft, hydrated, radiant skin with your perfect shade of golden glow.”

And we all know what happened, Esther glowed and emerged as queen. 

These three beauty treatments, if you are interested, were taken word for word from the webpage of a spa right here in New York City.

Haggai, by the way, is one of thirteen eunuchs mentioned by name in the Scroll of Esther. Before we go on, a little bit about eunuchs, no pun intended. A eunuch in Haggai’s position, charged with guarding the harem, was typically castrated before puberty. He may have been Persian, actually choosing this path, realizing that he was different from most men, or he may have been a foreigner, taken captive as a boy during war and enslaved for the purpose of becoming a eunuch.

The eunuch Haggai came through for Esther, but he wasn’t the only one.

Eunuchs are the first to tell Esther that Mordecai is wearing sackcloth, mourning the genocide looming overhead (4:4). 

The eunuch Hatach (HA-TACH), one of Esther’s personal servants, carries strategic messages back and forth between Esther and Mordecai, as the two of them hammer out a plan to rescue the Jewish people (4:5-17). 

Through this eunuch, Hatach, Esther says to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf” (4:16). This fast was very important; it allowed Esther to harness particular spiritual energies to protect herself as she carried out her mission before the king.

Eunuchs escort Haman to Esther’s banquet.

At that banquet, things go from bad to worse for Haman, thanks to a eunuch. The text tells us that the eunuch Harvonah
(CHAHR-VOHNAH) steps forward and says to the king, “A stake is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai” (7:9). Can’t you just imagine Harvonah looking at Haman, after this, and saying, “Oops”? And we all know what happens; Haman is impaled on that very stake.

So then, a eunuch gives Esther special beauty treatments, enabling her to emerge as queen; a eunuch carries messages between Esther and Mordecai, allowing the two to create a rescue plan for the Jewish people; and a eunuch offers voluntary testimony to the king that seals the fate of the evil Haman, once and for all.

What I find significant is that the Divine, El Elyon, the Most High, who is the director of the original Purim play, uses a sexual minority to rescue a religious minority from destruction.  The Holy Oneness of Israel, it seems, is content to use these effeminate men, with high voices, who are dressed as women, to help a woman, who is herself subordinate—she is in the harem after all—to save an entire people.

The story of Purim is a blueprint for the survival of the Jewish people. Then, as now, we Jews are a religious minority, and we are wise to keep reaching out to other minorities, to other historically oppressed groups. Entering into friendship and forming alliances with those who are different will help us hang on to what makes us different, which is the best guarantee for our survival.

Purim Sameach! Happy Purim!

And in the words that started it all,

“V-NA-TON   TAM-RU-KEE-HEN,” “Let the beauty treatments begin!”

19 February 2013

Swimming in the Sea of Capitalism: 
Understanding the Difference Between Need and Want
"Buy, buy, buy more shiny new objects! The purpose of life is to buy, buy, buy more shiny new objects! If you don't buy, buy, buy more shiny new objects, you're nobody!" In this society and in those that strive to emulate it, "Buy, buy, buy more shiny new objects!" is the church bell or call to prayer; its sound, however, doesn't offer an opportunity to connect with ourselves, with each other, with the Indwelling Divine, which is the true purpose of life, but to disconnect.  Short of replacing the current economic system, whenever we hear "Buy, buy, buy more shiny new objects," let us ask one simple question, "Do I need this or do I want it?"

17 February 2013

Benedict XVI: Forever Behind the Walls
The maggidim, spirit guides, with whom I work told me that Benedict XVI will never venture beyond the borders of Vatican City State in order to avoid extradition.