Here’s an interesting email I got from my friend Brian concerning the holiday of Purim (which the Jewish world celebrates starting this evening).
“A mystics thought on Purim….
WE are all familiar with the Talmudic statement regarding Purim: One should drink עַד דְּלָא יָדַע — “until one no longer knows the difference between “blessed be Mordecai” and “cursed be Haman.”
But what does it mean? For the non-meditator this seems like a very bizarre concept. Why would one strive to no longer be able to distinguish evil from good? Wouldn’t that be the height of immorality?
The most important mental state a meditator is trying to develop is equanimity; in Hebrew it is referred as hishtavuth (interestingly, also from the same root equal = shaveh). The top student of the ARI, R. Hayim Vital describes the state in Shaarei Kedushah as “humility shall be deeply impressed upon his soul, until he will feel neither joy at being honored nor the contempt of those who insult him, and both shall be EQUAL in his eyes.” At the most peak moment of equanimity = hishtavuth the mystic can no longer discern between opposites — all is one. In Latin this is referred to as coincidentia oppositorum and in Hebrew as ahduth hashaveh. R. Azriel of Gerona uses this term to describe the Infinite — the place where opposites are nullified. So Purim is a festival where the non-meditator simulates the mystic by engendering extreme joy with the aid of alcohol such that there is a semblance of equanimity.
Intoxication is not equanimity, but the concept is introduced on Purim and we should all strive to achieve the true state of shaveh/hishtavuth/ahduth hashaveh:
שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד
I equanimize, G-d is before me all the time.”