Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Mystical Purim Twist: The Male/Female Dynamics

Much of the Purim story is about the feminine coming into the spotlight. Vashti saw it as an opportunity for feminine power, i.e. independence. Esther saw it as an opportunity for feminine kindness, i.e. connection.

As with everything else, the Purim story has its own male/female dynamics. Historically, the Purim story occurred during the time between the two Temples - Solomon’s Temple and Ezra’s Temple. During this time, the style of divine kindness felt in human life shifted from masculine to feminine. As is very characteristic of this shift of divine kindness, miracles took on a different form. Previous miracles of the Bible were mostly very openly recognizable as miracles. However, from this period onward, miracles more often don the garb of natural occurrences. The only feature of these events that seem miraculous is their uncanny timing. Otherwise, the whole event can be explained naturally. For example, no longer are the innocent saved by a mighty sea opening before them to expose a dry path, but, by a successful royal plot that flowed along with the ordinary course of events, possibly without even being statistically significant.

The reason why these two states of divine kindness are viewed as male and female in relation to each other is because what’s male mainly echoes the Creator’s Infinity and hence, tends towards expansion, while what’s female mainly echoes the Creator’s Oneness and tends towards contraction. In short, male tends towards expansion and female tends towards contraction. These are two different approaches to kindness that ultimately complement each other. A male approach towards kindness tends to reach out. A man tends to view those he’s doing kindness to with a sense of distance - someone to reach towards. A female approach towards kindness tends to gather in. A woman tends to gather those she’s being kind to into her nurturing space with a sense of closeness. She truly bridges the gap (and therefore, might be more selective with her kindness - as it calls for entering into her personal psychological space). Of course, gender styles are not black and white. They’re tendencies. In real life there are plenty of exceptions and grey areas.

The Creator’s decision whether to use a male or female approach towards dispensing divine kindness affects the way miracles turn out. A male approach towards kindness works with a sense of distance and maintains the gap between giver and receiver. Therefore, miracles of the male sort are bestowed on divine terms, with less concern for the human recipients’ psychological comfort as they watch the familiar boundaries of nature dissipate. Whereas, a female styled miracle will try to meet the human recipients in their own familiar space, closing the gap; allowing for greater ease with the human psychological processing by operating within the familiar bounds of nature.

Since there really is only one reality, what happens spiritually reflects physically. This is why the shift from male to female divine kindness was felt by the power players in ancient Persia. In line with the wave of a more feminine style of divine kindness, women were suddenly cosmically favored and empowered. The wave had an outer body and an inner soul. The outer body was power. The inner soul was kindness. Though power and kindness might seem like opposite tendencies, with the right perspective and correct balance, they’re highly complementary and work like hand in glove. One can use power to dispense more kindness and to remove any obstacles to the kindness.

Women grew aware of their power. Since many Persian women lacked sufficient personality development, they didn’t yet have the tools to correctly process this new spiritual wave which entered their lives. In their subconscious minds, they interpreted the new wave more in terms of feminine power than in terms of feminine kindness. They were able to process the wave’s outer veneer, but, not the inner core. They took the wrapping and discarded the gift. Consequently, this new wave of divine involvement was seen by them as an indication of their secret superiority over men, leaving them with the sense that they were now independently capable power players.

This is what Vashti saw. She saw the superficial call to power and discarded the deeper call to kindness. As a result, she saw herself as a capable rival to her royal husband and denigrated him in her heart and even verbally, as Jewish oral tradition teaches. Her husband’s command that she emerge “with nothing, but, her crown” to entertain the men didn’t occur in a vacuum. It came from his own personal insecurity over her power streak. He wanted to demonstrate, actually more to himself than to others, that he dominated her. Since at this time what was feminine was cosmically favored, he failed miserably and became a laughing stock. His efforts were so transparent that they made him look worse rather than better.

The men in the Persian court, by and large, were certainly not any further along than their women in their psycho-spiritual development. They too lacked the tools to properly process the shift that was occurring right in front of them. This set off a wave of paranoia among the men. Consequently, they began to view women suspiciously, as potential usurpers of power. Like the king, they too thought the solution was to dominate women and shackle them back into traditional roles. So, the Purim story clearly begins with a pitched undercurrent of tension between the genders.

Esther emerges in the midst of this tense drama. Her name is appropriately the symbol of femininity itself. In Hebrew, her name means “I will hide”; a reference to the Creator hiding His kindness by operating within the familiar grab of nature. In the cultures around her, her name meant, “Astarte or Ishtar”; the deity of femininity. Being a wholesomely developed person, she understood that the inner intent of the new divine involvement was a call to a new style of kindness, not merely a new corridor to power. She used the combined power of her position and personalized feminine touch to subtly glide events along in a way that would save her people from destruction in the present and to ensure that in the future the next occupant of the Persian royal throne, being her own son (Darius), would be favorably inclined towards the Jews.

The new feminine wave of the time was a two sided package. If a woman only took to the outer veneer of power then she undermined her role as a comfortable partner in a relationship her man. If on the other hand, she also embraced the inner content of kindness she was able to cultivate a nurturing touch that drew her man closer. Vashti’s craving for power ultimately estranged her from her husband. Esther’s kindness brought her husband closer to her (this scenario can work with either the literal reading or the Talmudic reading of her husband’s identity - for simplicity, I’m purposely avoiding this particular issue).  

A woman “on the grow” is constantly exposing new levels from within her inner center of kindness. As she develops, she can truly engage her man on more mature levels. She becomes more in touch with a greater capacity to nurture his own heart in her's - allowing his heart to find a sweet home in her’s. This allows couples to connect on more and more levels, more and more deeply; ultimately, furthering their entire relationship into ever growing levels of intimacy.

This is why the Creator at this time made a female styled miracle. He didn’t want to overwhelm a broken People, but, wanted to nurture them into true intimacy in their relationship with Him. He realized that part of the problem was that in the past, He didn’t come off as truly approachable, but as dominating. Now He changed the whole dynamic of the relationship towards greater approachability.

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