Next month, Jewish people around the world will celebrate the holiday of Purim. Purim is a lighthearted, fun, silly holiday, with a serious message.
On Purim, we read from the book of Esther. In this story, Haman, the King’s right-hand man, encourages the King to sign a decree, ordering all the Jews in the town of Shushan (a town in ancient Persia) to be killed. Haman casts lots (the Hebrew word for “lots” is Purim) to decide what day to kill the Jews.
Unbeknownst to the King, his new wife, Queen Esther is Jewish. She became his new wife by winning a beauty contest. Together with her cousin, Mordechai, Esther saves the Jewish people from destruction. The story is told in an over-the-top, silly, manner.
The silliness of the story is exacerbated by the costumes we wear and the noise we make upon hearing our enemy’s name (every time Haman’s name is mentioned in the story, we make lots of noise).
We eat delicious Hamentaschen, cookies shaped like triangles, to remind us of Haman’s ridiculous three-cornered hat. However, in the midst of all this craziness, there is a very serious message in the story of Purim.
Anti-semitism is no laughing matter. The Jewish people have been persecuted throughout history. And yet, we persevere. We persevere because we have Esthers and Mordechais in our midst. Brave, courageous people who are willing to speak up and speak out against hatred and oppression.
The story of Purim reminds us that we were once oppressed. It reminds us that anti-semitism still exists today. However, it also reminds us that each of us has the potential to be like Esther and Mordechai and stand up and speak out when we experience prejudice, and when we see it happening to others.
This year, as we shake our noisemakers to drown out Haman’s name, let us think of more ways that we can be like Esther and Mordechai to drown out hate in our own day.
Rabbi Alana Wasserman is the rabbi at Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation and a member of the Southington Interfaith Clergy Association. The congregation meets in the First Congregational Church, 37 Main St. Rabbi Wasserman can be reached at email@example.com or (860) 276-9113.