Achdut, Making a Difference, and Hashem is Hidden Everywhere

{Posted late due to waiting for permission]

Jews live in constant contradiction. Today is the Fast of Esther, and tomorrow is Purim, where we celebrate and feast. First, we have a day of fasting and trying to think serious thoughts (it is sometimes hard to think when you’ve had nothing to eat, which is why this is a time where we give to friends but also make sure to give to the poor).

We think about Esther, trembling and scared that she was going in to the king not to help the Jewish people but to die, even sooner than the rest of her nation. This seems like not such a serious fast to us in modern times, not like the ones where we mourn the process that led, ultimately, to the destruction of our Temple. The Purim story took place when there was no longer a Temple, and we were a scattered nation who sometimes forgot who we were, to the extent that we even took part in a party that was not only base in its revelry, but degrading to the Jews in that they used our holy Temple cups and utensils. We were graced, then, to be threatened by annihilation, for it often seems that only under pain of death do we remember to turn to G-d and find our way back to the light of Torah. We came together as a nation, and mourned the harsh decree, and wondered how we could be saved.

G-d, in his infinite wisdom, had already put the cure in place. Even as Mordechai may have been saddened at Esther’s being chosen to be the new queen, he did not give up hope and continued to learn and pray, and stand up for his beliefs, not bowing down to Haman and his idolatry. Some say that this was the root cause of the terrible proclamation against the Jews, and that if Mordechai hadn’t been so stubborn and just bowed down, the decree would never have happened. I disagree. I think that we should do all that we can, everything in our power, but when Hashem decides that something is needed for our good, it will happen anyway. Then Mordechai realized that Esther was the one, put in play before any person could understand why, but that she could save the Jews. And when she wanted to refuse, he reminded her that if it was meant to happen, it would happen with or without her, but then she would loose the merit. So Esther fasted, and prayed, and took action. She went trembling before the king, at the same time knowing that her life was in the hands of the King of Kings, and requested that her life and her people’s be spared. Her request was granted, and more; her people turned the tables and destroyed those who had planned to destroy them. So as I fast today, I am thinking about what I need to ask of Hashem, and hoping that he grant my wishes and yours.

The second part of this holiday is the celebration, which commemorates all that the Jewish nation received at that time, from their lives to revenge against (although specifically not the riches of) their enemies. In the spirit of that celebration, I had the merit to be at my school’s pre-Purim teacher dinner this week. It was full of silliness and good cheer, (yes, teenagers, without alcohol), but we were reminded that all seudot are not complete without a dvar torah. A few people spoke from the heart and the speeches touched me, so I would like to share them here, a short re-telling of each one. Our vice principal, Meir Mordechaischveli, started by talking about achdut, togetherness. He said how none of the Purim story itself could really happen without the Jews coming together to pray and defend themselves as a nation. They merited the turnover of the decree against them due to their reaction when they first heard about it, which was that they all turned to Hashem. My mother-in-law, Sondra Sokal, who wrote about this in detail and in connection with voting, talked about how Megillat Esther shows that just one person can make a difference. She mentioned this at the dinner in connection with the teachers, who work hard in the hopes of changing their students’ lives, and how although sometimes it is possible to see the changes we help the students accomplish in their lives, sometimes we don’t in the short time we have them, but it is still important to try, because we don’t always know what power we each have to make a difference.

I stay away from politics in general, but I want to say that these two dvrei torah made me think about the elections, and the reason I don’t like politics. Election time feels, to me, to be divisive, with each person screaming loudly about their point of view and knocking down their opponents. I think it is important to remember that above all, we are all working toward the good of our country and our nation. We may do it in different ways, but we are all one nation and need to remember that. Although there is variety in Am Yisrael, Hashem gave the Torah to all of us, and we must remember that we help ourselves and merit Hashem’s protection most when we are one, together.

The last Dvar Torah was by Chava Kiel. She talked about how the Purim megillah demonstrates the hiddenness of G-d, and how Hashem works behind the scenes. While we all think that Hashem is not with us, because He is hidden, the truth is that He is hidden in everything. Were we to look around, we would easily find G-d.

Finally, I want to say that yesterday reminded me of one of the many reasons we chose to live here in Israel. Efrat had a Purim parade, celebrated with such joy and happiness, and then the school I teach at had a carnival. The children enjoyed the dressing up (and so did most of the teachers), and had fun at the parade. Part of my joy came from the simple fact that this is our land, where we can openly celebrate our holidays. As we run around giving our shalach manot tomorrow, I want to focus on that, most of all, we have come full circle, no longer in the galut of Persia to be married or killed at another monarch’s whim. We are celebrating more than the victory over those who would have seen us dead then, but over all those who would like to see Israel and its people gone, washed into the sea. Every day that we live here in our way, whether charedi, modern orthodox, Reform, no kippa…take away the label, and we are all still Jews—each of those days is a celebration that we are free Jews living in our land. Layihudim hayta ora, simcha v’sasson vyikar (light, happiness, joy and honor), which I wish for each of us. Baruch ata hashem, Hanifra lámo yisrael mikol tzarehem, Ha-kel Hamoshia. Happy Purim to you all.