During the month of Adar, we are commanded to increase our joy. Our joy is an intentionality during this month. In an increasingly complex world, sometimes that can be a great challenge. And yet, it is precisely in moments of complexity and difficulty that we are reminded that the simplest of joys help set the tone for this most special of months of the Jewish calendar.
I find joy in watching the world through my children’s eyes. In learning which Purim shpiel is on order this year. In last-minute costume decisions. In watching the baking activities of our incredibly talented neighbor Naomi, who makes sure there is enough hamantaschen to feed a small village. The month of Adar coincides with an annual mitzvah project for which my 9-year-old daughter collects donations from family and friends for a cause she cares deeply for. We take part in the mitzvot of Purim is a way that is meaningful for us, as a family.
Purim is also an especially important time of celebration in our home as we pay homage to the great Jewish heroine, Queen Esther. In a house where “girls’ rule,” who does not love a Jewish queen? When I was younger, my mother shared a memory of herself dressing up as Queen Esther. She reflected on her excitement as she dressed up as the great heroine. Esther, the victor of Purim, has and will always be, the costume of choice for Jewish girls across the globe. Queen Esther put her life on the line to save her people — the Jewish people.
Purim is the most joyous of Jewish holidays. Just as we continue to explore the Book of Esther and discuss its various interpretations, we continue to explore the meaning of Zionism. It is in the spirit of Queen Esther that we should take inspiration from her in doing so. She did not falter when afraid but, rather, pushed forward so bravely to protect her people. We celebrate her victory with the most joyous of Jewish holidays.
Purim’s spirit and joy are exactly the reminders we need of what Zionism represents. Disagreement about Zionism and what it means should not be the focus of our efforts. On the contrary, what should invigorate our Zionist identity is our joy and pride in being part of the Jewish people and having a modern-day state established in Eretz Israel. Living in this very time, in a moment where we have the privilege of being able to engage in deep discussion about identity, the future of Israel and our future as a people, should allow everyone the opportunity to pause, reflect and celebrate the blessing that is Israel.
Queen Esther was given the Hebrew name “Hadassah” at birth. The Persian name “Esther” became her new identity as a form of protection when she became the Queen of Persia. Like its namesake, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, today represents the leadership and continued empowerment of Jewish women, both through their advocacy of critical issues in the United States and the indispensable work of its hospitals in Israel. Most recently, Hadassah doctors joined a humanitarian aid delegation on behalf of the State of Israel who traveled to Turkey to save lives and treat victims of the tragic massive earthquake. Hadassah doctors did the same last spring when they traveled to the Ukraine-Poland border to help escaping war refugees.
We are witnessing history in Israel right now. The situation is complex. There are many questions surrounding what is to come. Bearing witness to the deep rifts within Israeli society is painful for so many of us. The recent wave of terror and loss of innocent life is devastating.
Purim could not be coming at a more fitting time, a time when we can celebrate our joy as a people, be reminded of the sacrifices we often must make for the greater good and appreciate that our destiny as a people, is together.
Queen Esther, born Hadassah, is my Zionist inspiration from the past. And because her name still represents courage and heroism, Hadassah is my Zionist inspiration for the future.