For my daughter, Julianna. I see the beauty, power and fight of Esther within you.
When I was a kid I knew about Hamantaschen
(Yes, I seem to write every year how much I LOVE prune!)
I knew about the Graggers/Groggers/Ratchets/Noise Makers… Probably even have some buried in a closet somewhere… You know the ones you crank and spin like crazy… My arms still hurt from when I was a kid!
I knew the story of Esther, Mordechai, King Ahasuerus/Achashverosh and of course, the evil Haman (Boo, Haman!)
And while the story is amazing on its own, with the most classic storytelling elements in place, it is only within the last few years of study, that I have learned and discovered the deeper and far more powerful meaning of Purim. The importance of the story cannot be denied, and as Ben pointed out so well in his last post, it has amazing relevance to today’s world. I would like to continue with that notion.
And that really is the power of the Book Of Esther… and the Torah and so much of classical Judaism. It’s lessons ARE timeless, ARE ALWAYS relevant, ALWAYS apply to the present… which is part of what gives it such truth and power and continuity.
Sad to say, but we ARE under attack… there ARE those who wish us death and destruction… and Haman is alive and well in many different forms. Ben and I both wrote about anti-Semitism last week, and I think the way the two posts complimented and book-ended each other was powerful. He used the story of Purim to look at these issues, and I want to continue with that, and move it the action of US standing up, speaking out and making some good and needed noise!
There is already a lot of “noise” in the world. A lot of saber-rattling, fear mongering, fighting and arguing. We seem more divided than ever, and in so much more of a vocal way. The way I hear friends speak and bicker and argue is louder and more vociferous than I can ever recall.
I think I have mentioned that I have seen families stop speaking because of the election… two guys almost fist fight at the gym because of the election… and while we are deeply divided, we as Jews must not fracture… because there is something dangerous lurking out there… sometimes in the light and sometimes in the dark… that seeks to destroy us.
Psychology Today posted an article on Feb. 19, 2017 that says: “In January 2017, for the first time in its 10-year history, the survey found a statistically significant increase in stress levels in the U.S. compared to the previous year… The most commonly shared explanation for why is the nation’s extreme political polarization.”
The author, Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D goes on to suggest four ways of dealing with this stress:
1. Limit time watching or listening to the news.
2. Practice mindfulness.
3. Focus on the parts of your life in which you have control.
4. Find support and take action if you need to.
For Jews (and Jews around the world, not just here in the U.S.) I would add anti-Semitism as one of the causes of stress… a major cause!
And I would also add prayer, Jewish mediation, and pursuing kindness and Tikkun Olam to the second… the latter two being a huge part of mindfulness, of course… But for this post, I would like to really focus on the fourth suggestion.
It is noted that the Book Of Esther is the only Bible story where Hashem does not ever appear. The reason that makes the most to sense to me is what I learned within the last few years and what Ben spoke of last week when he wrote: “So every Purim we hear the Book of Esther to remind us of the sobering tale of how the Jewish people had to fight for their survival… and the instance when one man stood up where others didn’t.”
WE… ourselves… The Jewish people… have to fight for OUR OWN survival. Period.
Mordechai stood up… in the face of persecution and fear of death. Esther spoke up, knowing that she might also be killed. They had to stand up because human beings… Jews… need to act in accordance with G-d… and while He might not always OVERTLY appear, He is always with us… always present. But boy, sometimes that is hard to see and believe. This is our challenge.
G-d gives us Free Will… the ability to act… and to hopefully do the right thing. Mordechai and Esther DID THE RIGHT THING!
It is BECAUSE of G-d not being there… or “appearing” to not be there, or directly influencing events, that the actions of a man and his daughter become so much more powerful and important.
Again, I hope we all know G-d is ALWAYS there… but it is easy to feel at times that He is TOO HIDDEN. How often do we wish He would reveal himself, especially in Modern Times… especially when things seem so bleak and dark?
As the proud father of a most wonderful and amazing daughter, I can only hope that she sees and resembles the best of me… that I, too, have the courage to stand up for what is right and what must be done… and that we two can stand together.
When Jews stand together, side by side, they are invincible. But the key is standing… together.
While our voices might not always be harmonious… or in perfect tune, pitch or harmony when they are raised together… we must realize that a chord is based on multiple, different sounding notes that unite and work to make a beautiful sound.
So take care of yourselves, take care of each other, stand side-by-side… and MAKE SOME IMPORTANT AND NEEDED NOIZE!!!!!