Telling Our Stories

Rabbi's Message - March 22, 2022

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

What a wonderful time we had at our Purim celebration! (Enjoy looking through the pictures of our festivities.)  There was a great sense of fun and community in our building, and I have missed that so much.  I am looking forward to many more gatherings in our future in this beautiful space, including our Open House Celebration on April 10.  

We have long referred to Purim as a “minor” holiday.  This is because it is not a holiday mentioned within the Torah, but it does not mean Purim is insignificant.  In fact, it is fundamental to our Jewish identity. 

Rabbinic tradition teaches that when the messiah eventually shows up, all Jewish holidays will be nullified except for Purim.  This is because we should never forget the ease with which evil can spring forth and how difficult, yet essential, it is for the people of faith to be prepared to stand against evil.  Even if the messiah is here, regardless of how good conditions and times may seem to be, we still read from the Megillah and recall the perilous position of the Jews of Persia. 

Just last week we were reminded how on Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before Purim, we are to read from the Torah the commandments both to remember what Amalek did to the Israelites, as well as to blot out his memory.  We do this because it is understood that the evil Haman of the Purim story is a descendent of Amalek.  And we must blot out his name (or boo it!!) as well as eliminate it within our own generation.

Though I wish we were not encumbered by the fear of antisemitism, I worry more about what would happen if we weren’t.  Remembrance is a part of our tradition; it protects us from getting so comfortable that we are unprepared for the unexpected, whether good or bad. Many of us have witnessed this ourselves within our own lifetimes. 

One of my favorite Jewish stories ties in with this idea.  We are taught that King Solomon sought out a special ring for Passover.  It is so powerful that if you wear it while you are happy you will become sad and if you wear it while you are sad you will become happy.  The King’s servant searched far and wide and eventually succeeded in his search and presented King Solomon a ring with a simple sentence written in Hebrew: “Gam Zeh Yaavor,” - “This Too Shall Pass.”*  

With this in mind, I pray that we are encouraged by the bravery of Esther in our Purim story to speak up and further our work of bringing about justice in the world, heralding in the time of the Messiah - a time when all peoples shall live together in peace and war will be no more.  Yet, I also pray that we never forget our past.  May it motivate us to work even harder for that day to come and to never take any moment for granted. 

*The story is a beautiful one and I suggest you take a minute to watch it told by a master story teller.

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