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Today’s Lesson

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Today was a day of frivolity. Of masquerading. And of carefree joy. Were it not for brave Esther, who took an unpopular and potentially fatal stand so many years ago, we would certainly not be here today.

Purim is a holiday free from normalcy and rules. Not only are we encouraged to gamble, cross-dress, and drink to excess, but we make fun of a sacred text and of ourselves. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that Purim is a trivial or minor holiday. In fact, so important is Purim that it will be the only holiday celebrated during Messianic times for even in a perfect world, we will still need to laugh at ourselves.

The story of Purim takes its name from the Hebrew word, pur, which means “lot” (as in lottery), for in the Megillah, Haman cast lots to pick a date for the slaughter of the Jewish people.

This story is without a doubt the oddest one in our Bible. The name of God does not appear – not even once! Its sexual shenanigans, philandering king, and violence are the stuff of soap operas and melodrama. Its dark undertones and giddy triumph over mortal danger, though, has always made it a favourite among a people with a long history of persecution and unhappy endings.

Is bravery reserved only for folktales and legends? Can we measure up to the valor of our ancestors and take the risks necessary to preserve Jewish life in contemporary times? Or if given the opportunity, will we take two steps back just because it is easier than taking that one step forward?

Ugly voices call for our destruction. Not in Babylonia. Nor in Shushan. Nor in Berlin in 1938. But right here. And right now. The President of Iran calls for our demise. And we do nothing. Hatred pours forth on college campuses across North America — indeed even in my very own neighbourhood — and still we do nothing. What will it take for us to gather together and say “no more!” When will we rise up in the manner of Esther and Mordechai and say “enough!”

On this day of rejoicing, O God, point the way to peace for all Your people. Give us the strength to stand up in the face of derision. On this day of remembering our deliverance, O Gracious One, deliver us from all hatred. Point us to a place of tolerance, partnership, and peace.

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