Purim: A Lesson in Learning to Let Go

There are many lessons that we can take away from Purim.  But the one that I’ve always been partial to is the importance of learning to “let go.”

We all have that one thing.   A painful memory.  A person who treated us badly.  Days, or even years later, it continues to nag us.

Most of the time, resilient adults learn to “let go.”  We reframe these memories as stops on the journey of life.  We find gratitude for the good, and allow that good to drown out the bad.  There may be lingering feelings.  But we persevere and move forward.  

However, the Purim story presents an alternate narrative: what happens when we don’t let go?  What happens if we continue to obsess?

Most of us read Purim as a Jewish story about Esther and Mordechai.  Yet, it is also a classic “riches to rags” tale of a man who failed to see the good and who became so consumed with the bad that he could not learn to let go.  

Think about it: Haman should have been on top of the known world!  He was a Grand Vizier and a leader among men.  He had his own estates, as well as a wife and ten sons.  Was there truly anything lacking in his life?    

His obsession with Mordechai, the one man who will not show him the respect he feels that he is due fills him with rage.  His anger at one little man standing outside the palace so consumes him that his ego runs amok.  He cannot overcome one, small, spot of negativity.  His obsession carries him down a destructive path where he tries not only to destroy Mordechai, but an entire people.  

As Jews, we dislike Haman for his cruelty: but at the same time, there is also a part of us that must feel pity for his inability to unburden.  We ask: How could someone with so much good fall from grace so quickly?  

It’s easy for us to play judge and jury for Haman.  But if we fail to see the capacity to become Haman within each of us, we’ve missed an essential dimension of the story.  I’ve met people well into adulthood who still obsess over childhood memories, leading to great unhappiness.  I’ve come across people with great potential who cannot overcome a negative experience to lead a truly productive life.  

Purim is a cautionary tale of what can happen when we fail to see the good in our lives, and when we fail to let things go.  Had Haman not been obsessed with Mordechai, he would have lived a wonderful life and likely his memory would have been lost to history.  

Instead, we are left to ponder: how do we not fall into the same trap?

About the Author
Daniel Dorsch is the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. He enjoys studying Daf Yomi, barbecuing in the winter, and spending time with his family.