Hannah Geller
Video Specialist at American Jewish Committee (AJC)

On Peace and Purim

"If not now, when" is inscribed in Hebrew.
"If not now, when" is inscribed in Hebrew.

There are some who only want peace when it’s convenient for them.

Let me explain.

In Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s biography on the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a timely story is told:

The holiday of Purim comes up… When Dr. Elliot Udell, one of the Rebbe’s physicians, suggests that the Rebbe make a special prayer that the war [in Iraq] be brought to an end on the holiday of Purim– then only a week away– so that ‘we can celebrate two smachot [happy events] on the same day,’ the Rebbe gives Udell a piercing look and says, ‘I don’t want to wait a week until Purim for this to happen… I fear for their lives. I’m praying that it ends right now.’

The war ends the day before Purim.

Some want peace when it’s convenient for them. The same goes for most things.

Whether it’s a vacation, an experience, or a soul mate… many of us, and I’m raising my hand, get distracted by the details. Maybe we wait to go on vacation until we have enough time off or we don’t make a reservation at that amazing restaurant until our birthday. We know we want it, though we are willing to push it off until “the right time.” If we wait for a special day to come, though, we’ll forget that every day is equally deserving of goodness. And if you’re anything like me, sometimes waiting for the perfect moment leads to the accomplishment of absolutely nothing.

I believe what the Rebbe is teaching is simple: If we want something sincerely, we should pray for it and want it now. We shouldn’t just want it in theory, be it peace or a child or a stable job. We should want it in practice, too. And if we really want it, we shouldn’t sit back and wait for more convenient timing.

Though I would love for the war in Ukraine to end on Purim or Passover so we could celebrate two happy events at once, this is not the wise approach. The Rebbe would give me a piercing look and say, “Chanale, I fear for their lives. I’m praying that it ends right now.” I must focus on the necessity of peace, not on the significance of the day on which it is sent.

So while I’m not the Rebbe (sorry to disappoint you) I want to give us a blessing with his lesson in mind. We should all have the clarity to know what we want, the confidence to ask for it, and the strength to seek it out. Now. Because if not now, when?

About the Author
Hannah Geller lives in Philadelphia and leads American Jewish Committee's video efforts. She is the Director of Photography for Emmy-Nominated "Quiet Sundays,” is editing a documentary set in Poland, and aspires to be a Kosher foodie influencer. Views are hers.
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