“It’s the same old story, yeah, Everywhere I go, I get slandered, libeled…” Paul Simon
Driving home from a visit to my elderly father, the almost full moon glows as I zoom down the highway, a reminder that Purim is days away. My mind is churning. That CNN. So upsetting to think of millions watching this sly and sophisticated anti-Israel bias churn out.
I don’t have a TV, but visiting Dad often involves sitting with him on his apartment couch as he watches the world unfold via these pundits. (I felt intensive existential Jewish fear when watching their portrayal of Operation Protective Edge this summer.) As Bibi addressed AIPAC this morning, their gurus weighed in on Bibi and Obama and Iran and what all this means replete with subtle and overt twists and distortions.
Is it marvelous coincidence, wise planning, perhaps with some rabbis whispering in Bibi’s ear, or a Divine plan, as I’ve seen many declare, that the Grand Speech is scheduled for the 13th of Adar, Erev Purim, Esther’s fast, the day Esther told Mordechai, “go and gather all the Jews and fast for my sake.”
The parallels are striking. Centuries later, same basic players: Persia and those annoying Jews.
Are their insights and lessons we can glean?
Adar is a month of extra mazel for the Jews. It’s an actual Halacha- Jewish law, if one has a court case with a non-Jew, to try to have it take place during Adar.
So far so good.
Purim is unique among Jewish holidays in its seemingly natural unfolding. A mighty empire, jealousy, intrigue, one-upping, political machinations. Sound familiar?
G-d’s name doesn’t appear even once in this story, which unfolded slowly over the course of several years. The Sages say that Purim is a true galut/exile story. G-d’s hand and miracles are subtle, clothed in natural occurrences. No splitting of the sea, but miraculous just the same. Like perhaps many of Israel’s victories, with hard work, dedication, skill, and a kiss from above. The Six-Day War, the functioning of the Iron Dome, the successful bombing of Osirik and non-detection of the pilots, and so many other examples.
Mordechai and Esther’s primary modus operandi was spiritual: bringing the Jews together to pray, strengthen their unity, coming closer to their Divine core, and to G-d. Their politicking and court posturing was secondary. The unity countered Haman’s claim, that “there is a people scattered and dispersed throughout the kingdom.” Our Sages consider these actions the cause for their victory.
So, our actions, our efforts to unite and strengthen our “Common Core,” of Jewish unity and connection to each other and our heritage, do matter. As helpless as we may feel in the face of myriad levels of geo-politics I know I can’t even begin to understand, there’s always that other layer of reality unfolding, one we can and do directly affect, with our efforts to do some Jewish stuff, just a little more, a little deeper, a little fuller.
It’s a miraculous time. A US Army Chaplain asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe if he should bring a megillah with him during his deployment in the Gulf War. Rebbe told him it wouldn’t be necessary, that the war would be over before Purim, which seemed impossible to the chaplain. And the war ended on Erev Purim.
Feel that Purim power at this potent time on the political and Jewish calendars. Give a Shalach Manot food package to a friend, or better yet, to a mere acquaintance. Give gifts to the poor.
By tapping into that transcendent, intense, joy of joys of Purim, may we draw it down into our perplexing world and fully experience “for the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor,” safety and security, for us and all of humanity.