There are many faces of Haman. Too many, in fact! We celebrate this holiday in merriment, yet, even as the M’gillah is read and carnivals are held, there is something tragic about this year’s celebration. There is too much evil in the world, too much hatred, too much anti-Semitism and fear of the “other”.
The “faces” of these current Hamans run the gamut from Russia to state houses to social media pundits, all who seem intent—perhaps for power—to drive wedges between people, to isolate one from another and curtail meaningful discussion. Is it no wonder that violence ensued? Is all of this posturing merely a manifestation of peoples’ insecurities and fears that are compensated for by seeking to attack others?
The Purim story was an example of a desire to single out and attack the “other”. Esther and Mordecai emerge as heroes who “save” their people and then, if you read the full book, exact violent revenge. Is the “Haman” of violence always the answer?
We have lost the art of civil discourse. Our parents would remind us that if we cannot say something nice about a person it would be best to say nothing. Now, it seems, that if we cannot say something nice, the response is to attack, belittle or destroy, literally or symbolically.
As you enjoy this holiday notice that at synagogue gatherings and Purim carnivals many will be wearing a mask. For Purim it is part of the ambiance of the celebration. But the symbolism for now may be instructive. People wear masks to hide identity. One may ask now from what these modern Hamans are hiding? What are they afraid of? Is the grab for power, influence and control a mask that hides, perhaps, their own fear of their own self? Haman’s “mask” was a fear of the “other”. We have not come very far from ancient Shushan.
Rabbi Richard F. Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.