A Purim In Search of Our Own Mordecai and Esther

This may be the most challenging Purim in recent memory. No doubt many congregations will reference the passage in Deuteronomy (25:17-19) on Shabbat Zachor, which reminds us of the need to remember Amalek and the instructions to wipe Amalek out. Very few at the Megillah reading or at Torah study will be able to not make a connection to current events! What shall we do this year with chapter 9 in the Book of Esther? As we celebrate Mordecai and Esther, we wonder with Dara Horn, where are the modern versions of these Biblical heroes? As we wave out groggers to wipe out the name of Haman, many will wonder if we are erasing other aspects our own community. As many colleagues have wondered, will this war and the rise in antisemitism challenge American Jewish identity? Will people return to reclaim a proud and public identity, or will they retreat?
Several decades ago, the late theologian and professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Dr Eugene B Borowitz, wrote a book called “The Mask Jews Wear: The Self Deception of American Jewry”. He wrote on the culture of 60s and 70s USA. Yet, much of the words have a sense of reality as we search for a path through these current times of uncertainty and anxiety. “We Americans are in such a moment of trial now.Our urban educated, upper-middle class finds central elements in its basic life style in increasing disharmony. Something in our previous aggregation of values must now be given second place.” Borowitz writes that, in so many ways, we have become seduced by American society, comfortable in a sense of security which now seems, suddenly, less secure. Have we lost our moral, ethical and “mitzvah” oriented core? Perhaps the current trauma is a factor in the push on the part of so many to seek a sense of meaning in their Judaism. We certainly see this in our Jewish Sacred Aging work.
Will the events in Gaza and the subsequent ramifications of antisemitic/anti-Zionist activity spark a call for a renewal on the part of American Judaism to strengthen our own identity? Willw e see a surge in a desire to learn more about Jewish history, identity, practice and spirituality? Will we emerge from this trauma renewed or will we, as Borowitz alludes to as his book ends, become a new type of American Marrano, holding on to our Jewish identity in secret, lest we be been seen!
I fear that these choices are very real. As we gather this weekend to read the Megillah, book Haman and cheer for Mordecai and Esther, how many will do so with mixed emotions? Where ARE the visionaries, the states-people who can lead us through this wilderness of anxiety. Passover is soon upon us with its message of liberation. Shall we still be searching for ours?
Chag Sameach Purim
Rabbi Richard F Address

1 Comment

  1. So provocative, Rabbi.
    I trust we will address some of these questions at Torah study and/or Spice Up tomorrow…

    Shabbat Shalom.
    Chag Purim Sameach!

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