Esther become queen and, through circumstances, affirms her Jewish identity. The plot to destroy us is unmasked; evil is vanquished and good reigns. Oh yes, and the end of the Book of Esther…well, go and read it because we never teach that part of the book to the congregation! Once again, Purim is here, and with it carnivals, hastily drawn costumes, parades, Purim spiels and the reading of the megillah.
This year, however, given the situation in our country, there does seem a not so hidden theme. With anti-Semitism having a re-birth and with fear of “the other” now an accepted mode of action and thought, I wonder about the many Jews who remain hidden; whose masks of conformity or denial may be shredding. Perhaps Purim needs to be a festival of re-affirmation of one’s Jewish identity. After all, Esther needed a wakeup call…do we as well?
We are, in the United States at least, caught in an interesting challenge. We are trying to figure out our role in contemporary politics as the 2020 election draws closer and, at the same time, we are also trying to figure out our relationship with Israel, who has its own issues as they now have enrolled in what may be the never ending election club. And yet, for the most part, we continue to enjoy a successful standard of living and, we hope, acceptance. Or so it seems.
Purim this year needs to be about removing the masks that hide our Jewish life, identity and involvement. It needs to be a call for greater involvement in the life of synagogues, JCCs and communal organizations; it needs to celebrate the expanding number of Jewish based “pop-up” organizations and communal experiments that are helping to re-shape and re-structure the community. It is a Purim that needs to seek out and honor the Mordecai’s that are at work, often quietly and without recognition, who seek to empower and engage the Jewish world, no matter what their age, what they look like or how they choose to live their Judaism.
Have a sweet and happy festival and have a hamentaschen for me.
Rabbi Richard F Address