Purim 5779: Striving to Hear Like King Ahasuerus Once Did

Last Friday, it was Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni and International Women’s Day.

However, last Friday, on a day when the joy that Adar Sheni brings and the contributions of women to society were being celebrated, our heads were turned to the violence in Eretz Israel as Women of the Wall participants were brutally surrounded, punched and whisled at by ultra-Orthodox children and adults for doing one thing: Davening.

On the Evening of the 14th of Adar and Shacharit the next morning, we will read Megillat Esther. Throughout the Purim story, we learn alot about the voice of women. Vashti was told to leave because when demanded to show herself off in public, she refused.

However, from Queen Esther, it is noted that a contrast is present as a women’s image is portrayed completely different than what was seen before. The Megillah states: “On the second day, the king again asked Esther at the wine feast, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half the kingdom, it shall be fulfilled. Queen Esther replied: “If Your Majesty will do me the favor, and if it pleases Your Majesty, let my life be granted me as my wish, and my people as my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, massacred, and exterminated. Had we only been sold as bondmen and bondwomen, I would have kept silent; for the adversary is not worthy of the king’s trouble. Thereupon King Ahasuerus demanded of Queen Esther, “Who is he and where is he who dared to do this?” “The adversary and enemy,” replied Esther, “is this evil Haman!” And Haman cringed in terror before the king and the queen (Esther 7:2-6).”

From the Pasukim, the verses above, we learn that King Achashverosh changed himself. For unlike before with Vashti, he was now respecting and hearing the requests of Esther. He didn’t shove her away. In the end, because of his willingness to listen, the Jewish People were saved! Therefore, we must ask: When Egalitarianism Davening is under attack, how can we be like King Achashverosh and support their davening, even if no one around does?

The first answer is to give a donation. On Purim, it is a Mitzvah to not only give Tzedakah to the poor, but, also give to organizations that strive to make the world a more just place. The second answer is to support organizations such as The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), United Synagogue Youth (USY), The United Synagogue Of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), Machon Hadar (NYC), The Cantors Assembly, The Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and The Rabbinical Assembly who all demonstrate that women can learn any Jewish Text or traditional Nusach and be able to carry it and be respected for sharing it with colleagues and congregations around the world. The third answer would be to stock up on the music of female Cantors and Song leaders. Thanks to Jewish Rock Radio, song leaders such as Abbie Strauss, Laurie Akers and Elana Arian have been able to release albums and inspire the world with their music! Finally, the last answer is to continue wrapping Tefillin. We can’t stop practicing ritual. We have to continue to stand strong and show what we believe in! Therefore, I created a playlist filled with music from various Jewish Artists, Song Leaders and Cantors below with the hope that just as their music has inspired me, it will also inspire the rest of the world too!

Ana Bekoach Gedulat Yamincah: Please Hashem with the might of your right, untie the bundle. Accept your people’s prayer song, heighten, purify us, mighty one so that all can be accepted for who they are and none shall be afraid when praising you.

May it be a Joyous holiday of Purim and month of Adar Sheni for all filled with  Joy, celebration, laughter and Simchah only surrounded by family and friends!

Chag Purim Sameach!

About the Author
Sam Arnold is a Junior at Western Michigan University majoring in Early Childhood/Elementary Education and minoring in Comparative Religions, with the goal to receive a master's in Jewish Education and pursue the Rabbinate. He is the 1st and 2nd Grade Teacher, Co High School Teacher, and the K-3 Team leader within the joint Religious School of Congregation of Moses and Temple B'nai Israel in Kalamazoo MI, and serves as President for Western Michigan's Hillel. Sam is a part of the first-ever NEWCAJE College Cohort, a Hadar Davening College Fellow, and has studied underneath Cantor Leonard Gutman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek learning and gaining respect for the art of Davening. Finally, Sam looks to inspire others to live their lives filled with passion, joy, and meaning, just as he is on a daily basis!
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