A so-called “simple” Jew was once travelling through a town when the sun began to set. He looked around and it was nearing nightfall when he finally found an inn. He banged on the door and after some time, an old man opened the door and apologized that there was no room for the simple Jew to stay because a group of soldiers were staying there. The man pleaded with the innkeeper until the innkeeper admitted that there was one bed left, but it was in the room of the General who had already gone to bed. The only way that the innkeeper would consider allowing the Jew to stay the night was if the innkeeper would wake him at 5am, because he had already been asked to wake the General at 5:10am. If the Jew would hurry and leave, he felt, the General would not suspect a thing. The Jew readily agreed to the deal and quietly went to bed. At 5am, the innkeeper woke the Jew who rushed to get dressed and leave the inn before the General would even wake up. The Jew thanked the innkeeper profusely and made his way to the train station. As he stood next to the train, he saw his reflection in the window – he was dressed in full army uniform! “Foolish old innkeeper” he said to himself, “he woke up the General instead of me!”
All too often, we identify people by the image that they portray. We take no more than a superficial look at them and immediately decide that we know everything there is to know about the person. One of the Mitvos of Purim is Mishloach Manos – a Mitzvah whose goal is to increase friendships; and in order to really increase a friendship, we need to see the real person in front of us, not just the image that they are trying to portray. This is the reason why we wear masks and costumes on Purim – so that we cannot make superficial judgments, because, when someone is wearing a mask, we know that they are dressed up. We know that it is not the real ‘them’, and that the real ‘them’ is behind the mask, and we are therefore forced to relate to them accordingly.
This is the message of the Purim mask: To remind us that the people are deep, complicated and unique; and a genuine friendship cannot be based on externalities, because all too often, that is not the real ‘them’; and Purim is all about making friends with the real ‘them’ – that which lies behind the mask!
Rabbi Moshe Kormornick, is the best selling author of SHORT VORT, available in Jewish bookstores worldwide, as well as at Feldheim.com and on amazon.
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