Parshat Pekudei: Claire Segal

Claire Segal, Bucks County, Pennsylvania


Let me tell you a quick fairytale: Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there was a king. The king threw a party, got drunk, executed his wife, woke up sober, and regretted his decision. He then demanded that every maiden of the land be displayed before him, chose one, married her, and, with a bit of drama, lived happily after. This, in three brief sentences, is the Purim story. Since this tale has been ingrained into us as children, we know more details. We know that Esther was Jewish, we know that her cousin Mordechai saved the king’s life, and we know the whole deal with Haman.


But, what if some of the details of the Purim story didn’t occur the way that they ended up playing out? What if it was different?


What if Esther wasn’t chosen to be the new queen?


What if Haman wouldn’t have wanted to kill the Jews?


What if Mordechai didn’t save the life of Achashverosh?


What Haman had succeeded in his mass genocide of the Jews?


What if Esther didn’t stand up for herself and her people in the midst of disaster?


There are four holy cities of Eretz Yisrael: Jerusalem, Chevron, Tveria, and Tzfat. These cities are compared to the four elements: Jerusalem is equated to fire, Chevron to earth, Tveria to water, and Tzfat to air.


Six months ago, we arrived on the Givat Washington campus with one thing in mind: growth. We came to Eretz Yisrael so that the ruach of the land would hopefully impact us and inspire us to strive to be better than what we were.


I don’t know about you, but I know that the Claire that you see now isn’t the same one that you met in the beginning of the year. I came here, like many of you, with an open mind–I wanted to become closer to Hashem, I wanted to learn Torah, and I wanted to form connections that will last me a lifetime. I think that we can all agree that this year has been a bubble; not only are we not in our home elements of the last eighteen or nineteen years, but we are also not in the central area of the typical seminary or yeshiva student, Jerusalem, but rather, in the middle of nowhere.


We have been surrounded by teachers, peers, nature, Torah, and cats this year. We have been in the eye of a hurricane with all of those constantly spinning around our heads and affecting us. Many of us came here because we wanted the winds of change to carry us this year.


As I mentioned, Tzfat is the city of air.


As terrifying as it is to think about, in thirteen weeks, we will be spending our last Shabbat here as the students of Machon Maayan in 5779.


I know–it’s absolutely insane to think about. We have thirteen weeks left to learn, connect, grow, reflect, and be in this year dedicated to us.


However, not only do we have a mere thirteen weeks to settle the winds, but we also have a mere thirteen weeks to grow our roots. Because, as wonderful as the air is, it’s not stable. Kabbalah, Tanya, and the Zodiac all speak about this: Air is fluffy, lacks substance, has no meaning, and is constantly in motion. And although air is eternal and is the epitome of נצח, air isn’t self-substantial. Tzfat is related to נצח and is said to be a taste of Heaven. The historical figure that is the embodiment of the sfira of נצח is Moshe Rabbeinu. The seventh of Adar is Moshe’s birthday. We just celebrated Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet.


Something that we can learn from this is that in order to be like Moshe and survive eternity, we need to take advantage of Adar and let the winds and air encompass our beings for the last few weeks that we have left here.


But, while opening ourselves to the last breaths of seminary, we also need to find our roots and water them. We need to identify our roots and strengthen them, because if we don’t, then the breezes of society will push us overboard. We need to pinpoint our values and morals and reingrain them into ourselves–we need to remind ourselves of what they are, because here in our bubble, they’ve been handed to us and we haven’t had the need to keep them in the forefronts of our minds.


When we go back to our places of origin, the people there will again be our people of influence, but not necessarily positive ones. In order for their winds to not take you and run with you to the other side of the world, the opposite of what you have gained this year, you need to have a solid יסוד, a solid foundation. Within the sfirot, נצח flows with הוד into יסוד.


This relates to the Purim story. Esther was raised by Mordechai–his winds whirled around her and influenced her to become her best possible self. When she went to the palace, her roots had to be firmly grounded, or else she would have walked into a forest and gone off the derech.


Just like Esther and Moshe, we need to embrace the gusts of inspiration that we have had the opportunity to be surrounded with these last few months. Our surroundings waft into our beings. When we go home, the positive aspects of ourselves that we have embraced and the mitzvot that we have taken upon ourselves shouldn’t blow away. In order to avoid that, we must begin to strengthen our roots now. We must strengthen our essences against all outside questioning. Our guts should stay strong. Our air needs to become implanted within the dirt.


Our ruach needs foundation.


Our foundation begins here, where we have the ability to sow and plant with mentors.


Take advantage of the experienced farmers that are nurturing us, and let them nurture you.


Don’t dally in the clouds–bring yourself into the earth, too.


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