March is the month that brings us Purim! Adar is associated with joy in gratitude for the Purim outcome: anti-Semites (Haman and company) at the highest levels of government organized a plan to do us all in, and thankfully they were thwarted. Purim is the holiday that exemplifies the joke “describing” the angst some associate with Jewish ritual: “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!”
The nervousness accompanying such humor is the theme of Purim and a reminder that as many years as we have survived, nothing is assured in facing the unknown.
Anti-Semitism is at such a heightened level that the French President, as I write these words, has thankfully spoken publicly to the Jewish Community making it known that from now on, anti-Zionism, hatred of Israel, is to be understood as anti-Semitism.
The irony in our finding ourselves once again in a climate that is changing in many ways, including, the increase of anti-Semitic incidents, worldwide, is that in spite of facing such pressures now and throughout history (some would suggest because of…) Jewish life and community continues unabated, for some 4000 years, tracing back to the first of us: Abraham and Sarah.
Nations have come and gone, each assuming it would last forever. So many of them did their best to place us in the history books or worse, to have us disappear without a trace, i.e. the most blatant of such attacks, the Shoah.
What adds to the amazement of our continuity is the quality of what we, so few in numbers, have brought to light to the world, without even doing it in the classic Prophetic sense, as Light to the Nations. Our light, (albeit, shining the glimmer of hope for us in the US since our country is founded and grounded in Torah principles…rights of people as children of God) has shone mostly through individual Jewish and Israeli contributions to health, communication, education, social consciousness, technical advances, and so much more emerging through the offices of the State of Israel and its citizens…i.e. a spacecraft, Beresheet, is now on its way to the moon, as I write these words!
So, what keeps us going, that we are still at it, thousands of years later, having witnessed scores of nations enter the annals of history that each had designated for us? Gifts from HaShem, that sustain us and keep us focused on the blessings of life, and choosing Life!
It starts with the teachings and stories of Torah that keep us connected to our past and inspired to carry it forward. Accentuating stories, especially mindful that they were not created for children, we add our own stories to the annals of the past, even as we ponder them metaphorically for insights into the present. The stories remind us how human pettiness and jealousies continue to plague individuals and societies.
The Purim story, the Book of Esther, introduces another force that has kept us alive through the ages, especially difficult times: humor and laughter, in releasing the tension and nervousness in a way that allows us to do what we can to distance ourselves from the sting and the pain. With Purim we turned a death sentence into a party of unbridled celebration and gratitude…and this comes from a story, unlike other books of the Bible, in which God is not even mentioned!
On Saturday evening April 6, we will explore yet another key to our continuity: the power of song and dance and honoring the past. In screening “Hava Nagila, the Movie” we will learn of two aspects of Jewish history: the story of the birth and life of the amazing almost anthem, Hava Nagila, and in so doing, its contribution to Jewish endurance of conditions of the last century and more as Jews lived and adapted and celebrated ups and downs, accounting for the most recent century in our thousands year old history.
I look forward to seeing you in costume this Purim as we enjoy the fruits of survival and continuity and the party that follows: Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 PM…and I look forward to seeing you for the B’nai Israel premier of Hava Nagila, the Movie at the CBI theater (the social hall) on Saturday April 6 at 7:30 PM.
Each of us has our unique stories of the parts we play in the continuity of the Jewish people. I look forward to times to share with you in continuing to build new memories for future life times, at services, study sessions, holidays and special occasions where we gather!