We eagerly look forward to the annual celebration of the joyous holiday of Purim this month. Yet we are reminded through Jewish ritual each and every week of the story of Purim, the reading of M’gilat Ester, and the lessons of the holiday.
With all its frivolity, silliness, and fun, it is important to remember and be conscious of the very serious aspects and lessons of Purim. Purim reminds us of the ever-present existential dangers that always have – and still do – face the Jewish people. Purim reminds us that we dare not mask this reality – rather, we are to confront the evil at our doorsteps and do all we can to eradicate it. Although through history we have not always been in a position to fight back against our enemies, Purim was an inspiring instance in which we cleverly and miraculously found a way to do just that. It is a reminder that we have always been hopeful in even the most dire of circumstances. Our God and our heritage have given us the wisdom, fortitude, faith, and determination to ultimately survive – and even thrive – no matter what.
The m’gilah highlights the fact that millennia ago, when we survived the extermination threatened by Haman, “La-Y’hudim hayta ora v’shimcha v’sason viykar” – “The Jews had light and gladness, happiness and honor” (Book of Esther 8:16). We actually repeat this line every week on motza’ei Shabbat (the end of Shabbat on Saturday night) as part of the havdalah liturgy, which also adds the words “Kein ti-h’yeh lanu” – “so may it be for us." Just as we commemorate Purim’s celebration of life, the triumph of good over evil, and the greatness of the Jewish people, so too each week we are reminded to bring this attitude and commitment to our present lives, with joy, honor, and gratitude, always.
Rabbi Jonathan Pearl