We’re heading into a time of year that is significantly focused on Jewish identity, being a part of the Jewish people and connecting to the broader Jewish world. In the next two months, we will celebrate Purim, a holiday whose theme is survival of the Jews against persecution and Passover, the holiday that remembers the Exodus and reminds us that we are to be thankful for our freedom. Then in April, we will remember the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah and celebrate the founding of the modern nation of Israel with Israel Independence Day.
There is a flow to these holidays. We begin with a holiday in which we’re deliberately hiding that we are Jews, but eventually celebrating openly that we are Jews. The Purim narrative is almost an outline for the three holidays that follow. Then we have a holiday in which most of the people don’t know what it means to be an Israelite, beyond facing oppression because they were one, Passover, something that deepens as we remember the Shoah, reminding us that evil in the world is not something relegated to our ancient history. And then we reach Israel Independence Day and the celebration of our survival and vibrancy.
Yet as we celebrate, just as we realize at the end of the Purim story, we always have to be on guard. We celebrate our survival as a holiday annually to remind ourselves not to take it for granted. We may be able to live in happiness and freedom, but our security is not to be taken for granted, neither in America, nor in Israel. We have to be ready to respond when challenges arise and we refuse to bow down.
Let us continue to speak out against the wrongs we see in our world and also be willing to speak out when the king’s ear is bent against us with attempts to demonize. We will live with gladness and joy and light and work to shine that light into the darkness of the world around us, proudly singing about it as we do.
Happy Purim and Happy Passover!
Rabbi David Kaufman