This coming month, we celebrate Purim and read Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther. The story is set in ancient Persia during the reign of Ahashverosh with the most evil figure, his royal adviser, whose name be blotted out. The leading Jewish characters in the story are named after two Babylonian deities, Esther is Ishtar, and Mordechai means Marduk Lives. It’s a Jewish diaspora tale.
There is debate about the historicity of the tale with the conclusions overwhelmingly falling on the tale and not the history side. Yet, it is also a story that we know reflects far too much truth for comfort for Jews. That governmental leader wanting to persecute, exile, or kill Jews has been in power in many places and at many times throughout our people’s history. Purim reminds us that it is up to us to take note of the threats around us, to challenge those who make them, and to take action when needed.
In the modern context, it reminds us that combatting Antisemitism requires vigilance and engagement. It isn’t only in the modern age that silence and indifference to mankind’s inhumanity have been the greatest sins, but throughout our history. Yet, Purim also reminds us that we cannot dwell on our difficulties, even when repeated over and over again through the ages. Why? Because we’ve survived. We live. Living means, the terms of the Book of Esther, “And the Jews had light and gladness.” We need to celebrate too!
And so we will.
On Friday night, March 6, we will read the family friendly version of the Megillah at Family services. On Monday night, March 9, we will read the full text at our adult service. Monday night will also include the traditional “L’chaims” that go along with the reading of the Megillah and we encourage you to bring desserts appropriate for that theme.
Rabbi David Kaufman