My dear friends, as we celebrate the joyous Chag of Purim, we are reminded of the eternal nature of this holiday. The Megillah teaches us that despite the countless trials and tribulations we have faced throughout history, the Jewish people have survived and will continue to thrive.
As the Rambam says, “these days of Purim will never pass from amongst the Jews and their remembrance will never be abolished from their children.” This is because Purim represents something truly unique – it is a testament to our faith and resilience, our ability to face adversity with courage and determination.
From the very beginning, the story of Purim has been one of survival against all odds. Our patriarch Avraham Aveinu, who was called Ha’Ivri, meaning “one who stands alone,” faced a hostile world that was arrayed against him on one side, while he stood alone on his own side. This theme has continued throughout our history, with countless persecutions and pogroms aimed at our people.
And yet, we have always survived and emerged stronger than before.
The story of Purim is no different. Despite the evil designs of Haman, who sought to decimate the Jewish people, we were miraculously saved from complete annihilation. But what is it about this particular story that makes it so timeless? What is the secret of its message of eternity?
Perhaps the answer lies in the way the crisis was averted. Although the story appears to be couched in natural sequences of unfolding events, there is something truly remarkable about the response of the Jewish communal leadership to this national crisis. In the face of danger, they did not cower or retreat. Instead, they rose with courage and determination, inspired by the example of Esther and Mordechai.
There is also a powerful message and reminder of the dangers of assimilation and forgetting one’s connection to Hashem. The Yidden in Persia had become complacent and comfortable in their position as a privileged minority and had lost sight of their identity as a people chosen by God.
They had become so focused on fitting in and assimilating into Persian society that they had forgotten the importance of their traditions, their laws, and their faith.
The consequences of their forgetfulness were devastating. When the anti-Semitic winds began to blow, the Jews were caught off guard and unprepared. They had become so absorbed in their own success and material wealth that they had failed to see the writing on the wall. The threat of total extinction was upon them, and they were powerless to stop it.
But during this tragedy, there were still a few who remained true to their faith and their heritage. Mordechai stood out as a shining example of devotion and courage. He refused to bow down to the wicked Haman, even at the risk of his own life. He reminded the people of their duty to God and to their people and inspired them to fight back against their oppressors.
We learn in Pirkei Avos that, “in a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader.” This is precisely what Esther and Mordechai did. They were not content to sit back and let events unfold. Instead, they took charge of the situation, rallying the people to their cause and inspiring them to fight for their survival. And this is precisely what we must do today.
As we look around us, we see a world that is once again filled with hatred and intolerance. We see leaders who seek to divide us and tear us apart, using identity politics, hate, and division to sow the seeds of discord and mistrust. But we must not be afraid. We must rise with courage and determination, just as Esther and Mordechai did, and fight for what is right using the tools of Torah
The story of Purim teaches us that survival depends on deft and courageous leadership, and on the ability to play off the interests of more powerful actors. Rabbi Yitzhak taught: “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Brachos 55a) We must consult with one another, we must work together to find common ground, and we must never lose sight of the values that define us as a people.
At the same time, we must also remember that our survival ultimately depends on our faith in the Ribbono Shel Olam. We must put in the effort, we must work hard, but we must also trust in Hashem to guide us and protect us along the way.
So, my dear friends, as we celebrate Purim this year, let us remember the timeless message of this holiday. Let us remember that despite the threats of racism, antisemitism, and hatred, the world will ultimately see leaders who champion Emes and Shalom for all. Let us be inspired by the example of Esther and Mordechai and let us rise with courage and determination to fight for what is right. May we also have the zechus to learn from the Megillah the eternal lesson of our people and see the Moshiach in our time.
Inspired by a dvar torah by Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht ZTL the former President of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Igud HaRabbonim in 1976.