You know Purim; it’s that kids’ holiday that comes out a month or so before Passover. It’s the holiday where the kids dress up. In Jerusalem, where the chag is celebrated on Shushan Purim, the streets have been awash for several days now by children, including my granddaughters, in costumes. Some dress as the heroes of the Purim story, Mordechai and his beautiful niece Esther. But, today, in the 21st century, we’re just as likely to find Iron Man, Cinderella and Snow White, as we are our traditional heroes. Appreciating the tech-age we live in, some even go far as to dress like iPads and iPhones. (How come we never see anyone dressed as a Blackberry?)
Growing up, I looked forward to the one time a year that we children were allowed to make noise in shul. For, as everyone knows, it’s been our custom for many years to drown out the name Haman whenever it is pronounced during the reading of the megillah. Groggers, those specially designed noise makers made out of cheap tin and plastic, as well as the fancy wooden ones, seem to be fading away in favor of air horns, plastic hammers and, as I witnessed last night in Ra’anana, a saxophone.
I remember once being told that it was the custom of some to write the name Haman on the soles of their shoes and to stomp their feet up and down in an attempt to literally wipe out the name of Amalek, Haman’s ancestor, as commanded in the Torah. But have you really tried to stomp your feet on the synagogue floor? After one or two tries, you realize it hurts and you have to make yourself content with just rubbing your feet back and forth to erase the name.
But being in Israel and watching everyone ramp up to the chag adds a different dimension. Not just to the holiday itself but to the meaning behind it as well.
It dawns on me as I look at the adults already in costume in Jerusalem and snap a photo of a bus coming up King George Street.
that Purim and its lessons are not just for the kids. No, its message is deeper than the façade of the costume and all the noise. Purim, in Israel, and as it should be for Jews around the world, is not just a story, it’s life, it’s current events.
As the events of the last year remind us, there are those who seek to destroy Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people wherever we live. We may not be able to specifically identify them as Amalek or Haman. Today, they go by the names of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Authority and its constituent parts. And I suppose we have to throw ISIS into the mix, too.
And if we feel safely ensconced in America or some other place in the Diaspora, think again. Silence in the face of terror, real or threatened, is a recipe for our own destruction. The time for American Jews to protest our government’s wishy-washy approach to Islamic terror is now. US handwringing and spouting sentiments is not enough. And we have to be the ones to tell that to the Obama administration.
As was written more than 2,000 years ago,
“Do not think that you will escape [the fate of] all the Jews by being in the king’s palace. For if you will remain silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and the house of your father will be lost. And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.”
Chag Purim sameach.