March 20, 2011
Today is the Holiday of Purim, a day of joy and happiness celebrated by Jews throughout the world. The holiday recalls a time in ancient Persia when a wicked man named Haman plotted to have the Jewish people wiped out by a royal decree. As events unfold during this scary story the Jewish people are faced with one misfortune after another. It just seems that fate is out to get us. Where is God we might ask. Perhaps the Jews of that time asked the same question, where is God and why are so many bad things happening to us?
In fact, God is not mentioned in this story. Throughout the entire "Scroll of Esther" the name God appears not even once. Unlike the story of the Exodus from Egypt, or other Biblical miracles, the Master of Universe seems to be elsewhere. As the plot unfolds it is clear that the Jewish people, a small minority "Scattered and separated among the peoples of the kingdom" are doomed to mass destruction. Indeed this story foretells a theme that, tragically, will manifest itself again and again throughout Jewish history, and underlie the need for us to return to our own ancestral land.
Esther, a Jewish woman married to the King of Persian, pleads, begs and prays for the evil edict to be revoked, (similar to political lobbying today) but it cannot be. For an "edict signed by the king cannot be revoked". Through a series of events, Mordechai, known as "Mordechai the Jew" gains favor with the king. You will have to read the story and see how Mordechai and Esther save the day. Finally the King decrees that although the decree cannot be rescinded, Jews will be allowed to defend themselves. We see here that sometimes the political channel is closed and one must take action; military action. The Jews of Europe discovered this as well, but sadly few listened. Few truly understood the underlying meaning of the Purim story.
The Jews fight back and take revenge against their enemies. In a surprising turn of events the Jews actually kill a great many of their enemies. As the megilla (the scroll) tells us, "and things turned around", instead of Jews being killed by their tormentors, the Jews killed their tormentors. Truly the situation reversed itself, although it had seemed totally hopeless. One thinks of the opening days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the proud members of the German Wehrmacht running away.
When we read these ancient scrolls it is not only to recall the events that happened to our ancestors, it is to learn lessons for our own lives. So often events unfold in a way that makes us wonder, "Why is this happening to me?" but only later, with wisdom, can we look back at the entire "Scroll" of the story and then the "hidden is revealed" as we realize that the entire series of events was a great learning and growing experience, as if guided from above by some source of Wisdom.
For Krav Maga practitioners the Purim holiday is certainly important. It is about fighting back but it is also about letting go and taking charge. How so? how can it both at once? The Jews of ancient Persia had to let go, they had to pray to God, the King of Kings, as well as appeal to the powerful earthly king, the King of Persia. Once they acknowledged that they are at the mercy of greater forces, both earthly and heavenly, forces that are beyond their control, they were able to take charge, and take action.
It is ancient wisdom to realize that we only have control over certain aspects of our lives, over certain events. We must accept that certain things we must "hand over to others," to greater forces, and we must focus on what we can actually do for ourselves. Often we can only do for ourselves once we accept our limitations. Sometimes More is Less and Less is More. Sometimes we must let go in order to let things happen. This takes humility and wisdom, often only acquired from real life experience.
Too many confuse martial arts and Krav Maga with ego; "I am the best, I am unbeatable". This is nonsense. True self defense must begin with humility, we must realize that certain things are not in our hands. Only then can we focus on what truly is in our hands.
As I write these words I am turning fifty years old. As I hit fifty I am not the same as I was so many years earlier. Not only does the body change but so does the mindset. The ego takes more of a back seat. Martial arts becomes less of an ego trip and more of a journey home, both physically and spiritually. My goal is for all of us to get home safely, and to find our own peace of mind.
As with our ancestors in Persia, so too today, we have the ability to turn things around, to become different people, to turn misfortune into fortune, but this takes wisdom and humility.
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