An incompetent ruler is in charge of the kingdom.
A strong woman gets pushed aside.
An evil plot puts a people at great risk.
Together two individuals realize their power.
This ancient tale speaks important truths, and right now the Purim story is stirring my heart like never before:
1. Even if we're not sure how it will land, we need to channel Esther and speak up. My favorite line of the whole megillah is when Mordechai pushes Esther beyond her comfort zone and says: "Who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis" [Esther 4:14]. What's the truth we each need to share? And to whom?
2. I came across a beautiful interpretation of hamantaschen as a reminder that we can be brave and strong on the outside and still soft and tender on the inside. As we protect ourselves and others, we should also honor the uncertainty we feel within.
3. Speaking of hamantaschen, my daughter asked the classic question last night: Why do we make cookies that remind us of Haman's hat, if he was the evil one? This is where our ancestors really understood the human condition. Purim not only reminds us of the proximity of fear and fun - of mourning and merrymaking - but also pushes us to hold those ranging emotions in one hand.
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes: "The celebration of Purim grows out of a wise acceptance of vulnerability. The truth is that all of life is deeply vulnerable. Health, success, children can be snatched away overnight. The sweetness of life should be savored today, for that is all one really has for sure."
Here in Westchester, anxiety about coronavirus is palpable in the air, and understandably so. How do we celebrate Purim right now? By honoring the wisdom it brings to this very moment:
- Start with the story. Here is a great resource to read and share with your family. We all deserve a good fairy tale right now, and it may land in new ways.
- Make sweets to savor. Here is the recipe we use in our family.
- Pick up the phone. Call loved ones who need to hear your voice. Or call your representatives about what's heavy on your heart. The Reform Movement in NY is currently organizing around "Protect our Courts." Here is the latest call-in script.
- Listen to your insides. The situation is quickly unfolding, and this is new territory. Sanctuary will continue small group gatherings as long as we can, because it feels important to be together while being cautious. We also understand that some may prefer to stay home.
To finding moments of joy in the midst of vulnerability,
Rabbi Bethie Miller