Why this holiday of masks? Confident people don’t hide. When we draw near to G-d, we compel ourselves to reveal. G-d’s Injunction in the Eighth Commandment is to never lie, mislead or deceive. Everyone’s life-task is to access the current contours of their ever-ascending soul. We bankrupt ourselves if we obscure and dissemble; the soul becomes unknowable, yet the soul itself is incorruptible, imperturbable. Light’s purpose is to recover diminishing light around itself, a holy tautology. So why this holiday of masks, of masechot?
We intuit a similar word—masechet, the “tractates” of the Talmud, e.g. Brachot, Kiddushin, etc. Masechet denotes a container of studies unmasking strange and wondrous knowledge towards G-d. If indeed there is a connection between these two words, there must be something inside each to reveal or protect, some extraordinary light to be shared. G-d’s Purpose is hidden from us, yet we are meant to fulfill His Intent regardless. Life is our mysterious unknown to unknot.
We know that Moshe Rabbeinu wore a veil after he interacted with the populace at Mount Sinai. Brides also wear veils under the chuppah at their time of sanctification. The last eyes to gaze into hers were those of the chatan, the groom who veiled her and brought her into the chuppah chamber. Moshe Rabbeinu absorbed G-d’s Light and exposed it to the people; he was a reflecting lens for Divinity. He then veiled himself in his own solitude as G-d’s Light flared sunlight-bright. The kallah-to-be is transforming, her womanhood rising from the wellspring of Eden. Her overflow of inner brilliance is preserved inside her innermost chamber. The word “hav,” meaning “give,” forms the root letters of “ahavah,” meaning “love.” Such is the inner courtyard of our hearts. In Judaism, the heart is the seat of wisdom. The spiritual activity of the heart is to radiate our greatest goodness out upon each other. Our wisdom, our purpose of pumping hard, is to give over and over. We know we love when we belong to another, when light from G-d is exchanged. Such is the spousal love of holiness: “I my find my own light within you.”
The bursts of coupled bodies are G-d-given wonders. G-d shares Creation’s foundational secrets with us. We study each other’s faces, laughter pouring from deep in our mouths. “You are my Creator,” we say to each other, to G-d. We are alive and bring life to one another, creating ourselves in the mirror of G-d’s eyes. The enormity of home is exclusive. Moshe’s veil reminds us all that we too can approach G-d’s Selfhood, b’Tzelem Elokim. We all carry an invisible veil to drape over the light inside us. A marrying couple realizes this forward from their now. After we meet G-d’s eyes, that’s when most people kiss deepest—when our eyes are closed. We are doubly veiling our souls.
The masveh, the veil, does not hide; it surrounds. It is a privacy of love. Our soul chooses who to interlace with in our G-d-knowledge. Souls find each other before we do. This is called binah, celestial illumination. When two lovers love, the world receives but a shadow of their brilliance. Supernal love remains in the Heavens; earthbound light emits a mere glance. The letters of masveh can be reconstructed to form the word hasoom, “the poison.” There is danger in being so close to the source of light. The prayer under the chuppah is to bless the everlastingness of this light connecting husband and wife. May we reveal within our secrecy.
The holiday of Purim defies that. The mark of destruction was placed upon each and every Jew, but Esther told her husband she would keep the light of his love within her, and the people were restored. Certain traditions deduce that Koresh (Cyrus the Great or Darius) was their descendant. He was the Persian king who returned the Jewish people to Jerusalem and authorized the construction of the Second Temple. (Of course, many meforshim refuse that Esther and her husband shared any physical intimacy whatsoever.) Let us say that the letter aleph beginning the name Esther replaces the letter pe beginning the word Purim, forming the word urim—lights.
We see that the masveh is relational, one to one. G-d to Moses, Moses to the people. The masecha masks the private treasure-house of light that redounds throughout our lives and teaches us how close we have come to eternity. We don’t hide behind the masecha; rather, the masecha keeps our light protected, safeguarded until the auspicious moment we share it with another. The mask comes first and then the veil—one is opaque and the other is translucent. A masechet of study, similarly, is opaque until the moment of intellectual illumination. The Purim mask makes us unknowable. It is written in Megillat Esther that the Jews had light and joy and honour (8:16.) The people hid their light opaquely through the dark days of exile until they were able to let it shine freely. Now, at every havdalah, we recite this phrase and bless each other: “may we have it, too.” Our greatest truth is the light our spouse preserves within us. We are remade in this exchange. The holiness of marriage re-echoes the First Day when G-d said “Let there be light.” This light we carry forward on behalf of our intimate ones. Let there be your light. Amen.