Shalom Orzach

Dress Rehearsal

Chodesh Tov, Rosh Chodesh Adar II and despite the directive of  “increasing in joy”  מרבים בשמחה it is actually the apprehension that is increasing. The prospect of unrivaled elation in these dark and agonizing days seems incongruous. Recognizing the injunction aptly brought in the Tractate of Pesachim of  שלושים יום קודם החג שואלים ודורשים בהלכות החג – Thirty days prior to the Festival of Pesach one should begin studying the laws and lores of the Festival, it behooves us to consider the practices and concepts related to Purim. For almost five months now, our texts, though familiar, have taken on new and poignant connotations and implications.Clearly the canon of Purim, Megilat Esther, timely and timeless will resound in ways perhaps never previously considered. One phrase that is reverberating very powerfully is the iconic appeal of Mordechai to Esther, as she allegedly hesitates to act to prevent the looming calamity, 4:14;

כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִ֘ישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃

On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.”

The phrase הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִ֘ישִׁי֮ though often translated as, if you keep silent, has paradoxically  resounding overtones. The term cheresh is usually understood as meaning deaf, most famously perhaps in the list of directives that expand or perhaps denote the mandate of  קדושים תהיו  – Be Holy. Vayikra 19:14;

לֹא תְקַלֵּ֣ל חֵרֵ֔שׁ וְלִפְנֵ֣י עִוֵּ֔ר לֹ֥א תִתֵּ֖ן מִכְשֹׁ֑ל וְיָרֵ֥אתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God: I am your God.

There are also many instances in the Torah where the term has additional significance. In the laws of vows brought in the Book of Bamidbar, almost exactly the same phrase as the one in Megilat Esther is used. If a woman takes a vow and …30:15,

וְאִם־הַחֲרֵשׁ֩ יַחֲרִ֨ישׁ לָ֥הּ אִישָׁהּ֮ מִיּ֣וֹם אֶל־יוֹם֒ וְהֵקִים֙ אֶת־כָּל־נְדָרֶ֔יהָ א֥וֹ אֶת־כָּל־אֱסָרֶ֖יהָ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָלֶ֑יהָ הֵקִ֣ים אֹתָ֔ם כִּי־הֶחֱרִ֥שׁ לָ֖הּ בְּי֥וֹם שָׁמְעֽוֹ׃

If her husband offers no objection from that day to the next, he has upheld all the vows or obligations she has assumed: he has upheld them by offering no objection on the day he found out.

The potency of this phrase calls out for generations. Mordechai prophetically not only addresses Esther, but all of us, with the moral code that must be upheld. It took the UN almost five months to confirm that Hamas raped victims during the October 7 massacre and acknowledge that they have ‘Clear and convincing information’ that hostages held in Gaza are subjected to sexual violence. How were you deaf to these cries for so long? How is it conceivable that the same people calling for an immediate ceasefire offer no objection to the fact that for a staggering 157 days, women, children, elderly and innocent people are still being illegally held hostage in Gaza? Too many feign deafness. Not only these crucial issues but these people too must be called out #Now. Be that voice, act on these injustices #BringThemHomeNow

About the Author
Shalom is a senior educator and consultant for The iCenter and serves as faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp . Prior, he served as the AVI CHAI Project Director and Director of Education in the Shlichut and Israel Fellows unit for the Jewish Agency. He has served as a consultant for the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Jewish Peoplehood Committee. Shalom was also a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, after which he served as the Executive Director of Jewish Renewal for United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA). Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion. He feels privileged to live in Jerusalem and loves sharing stories about life in the Land of so much Promise.
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