Many years ago, I attended a lecture about Purim presented by Rabbi Henry Harris at Aish HaTorah. The rabbi was discussing why everyone, from righteous Mordechai to wicked Haman, loved Esther and claimed her as their own. She had ultimate universal appeal. The rabbi explained we are told Esther was “green”, and he challenged us to try and understand what being green meant (and no, neither environmentally conscious nor jealous is the answer). After having us stumped for a bit, the rabbi explained, “color spectrum, folks. Green is in the middle.” He then explained how being in the middle meant everyone from both sides of the spectrum felt close to Esther.
I walked away, intent on bonding and communing with all folks on any end of any spectrum. Whether Chassid or gangster, I was going to try to be understandable and understand anyone within the spectrum of humanity. I was going to be a Green Grower, so help me G-d.
All humans are made from earth, giving us a base physicality with which to contend. It is easy to understand baser natures, which might explain why I took that route. I was going to trade base nature with base nature in my parlance with others, letting them know how they were utterly understandable in their foibles. I was also going to speak the language of others, to jive with them in their own style. So, when someone affectionately called her friends Butthead, I, who grew up with no television, sought to emulate. Forgetting the exact wording, I got it almost right. “Hey, Buttface” I called out one day. In public. To my public humiliation.
As time went on, and my jiving went to insane proportions (yo’, gotta problem witchat?), folks began to think, without my regaling them of my sordid past, that I did have such a colorful past. And since I was trying to commune with and understand all, my past sounded like a patchwork quilt of crazy stunts, which it really isn’t.
G-d in His mercy decided to give me a wake-up call. One of the lines I’ve picked up in my quest to be green was “pass the booze.” Although I, thank G-d, have no alcoholic tendency, I can understand getting rip-roaring drunk. Everyone can. No brainer. There is a side of us that at times wants to let go of all, to escape beyond cares. And while I generally am too much of a prude and too responsible to ever abrogate responsibility by getting drunk, I decided to humorously (or so I thought) make light of any hard moment with the flippant witticism, “Pass the bottle. The booze. Now!” Then I met a guy. Somewhere along the way I used the line on him. Maybe used it a few times. I was mystified why he insisted on treating me to drinks in a bar. And why he was shocked when the waitress took my order and I asked for “a diet coke, please”. Communication disintegrated shortly thereafter.
What went wrong with the understanding that was supposed to flow between folks, and why had I been so misunderstood? I was astounded. Here, in my quest to understand everyone, my own self got misunderstood. And then, I had to ask myself, did my understanding of the baser side of everyone mean I was emulating Esther/Hadassah?
A few years too late, I finally got the message imparted by that long ago lecture. There are two ways of understanding and making others equal to me. One is by showing my baser side can equal theirs, shot for shot we can drink, sordid tale for sordid tale we can swap, desire for desire we can commiserate that we want. That couldn’t be what Esther did in her life.
I finally understood. Esther knew the greater side of each person, for each person is a mix of base desires and soaring spirit. There are two ways to commune. We can meet at our base points. Or we can recognize each other’s soaring spirits. As the Breslover Rebbe taught, there is a spark of goodness in each person, a common G-dliness within all mankind. I know now I must swap spirituality for spirituality, to see within you the greatness that is there. The baser side of us is just that, base and immaterial. What I now want to understand, what I must now learn to seek out, is the greatness within each individual person. I must look upwards to you and see your shining side. No matter where we stand on the spectrum, the commonality is our soul and its ability to soar to heights. I might still become Green someday, so help me G-d, if I learn to see, whether housed in Chassid or gangster, each individual soul’s righteousness.