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Celebrating a community-inspired holiday

March 2016

The Jewish calendar is rich with holidays. In the Torah, we receive Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and our weekly Shabbat. God announces the holidays, gives a description, and provides the rituals; later on the rabbis add the details of how to celebrate. So there is wonder at how Purim; Chanukah later; and, in recent times, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), and Yom Yerushalayim(Jerusalem Day) became part of our holiday system. Who decides on the establishment of these holidays, who declares the reasons we need them, who determine show we celebrate? It turns out that Purim is the model of how to create a holiday inspired by the community. The Purim story is rich in significant themes: a minority defeating a majority, the struggle of living in diaspora without autonomy, dealing with anti-Semitism, the challenges and pitfalls of assimilation, and more. Reading the Purim story, we feel the absence of God’s name and wonder why God’s name is not overtly mentioned. There is an understanding that God’s name is hidden in the story’s climax when Esther hesitates to speak to King Ahasuerus and Mordechai replies, in chap-ter 4:14, “If you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place/quarter.” Hamakom—the Hebrew word meaning place or quarter—is also another name of God in “hidden” form. We recognize God’s hidden nature because upon reflection we also find God looking back at our narrative of significant decisions, of events that lead us to who we become. When telling our own story, how often do we credit God’s hand in leading or guiding us on our path. The Purim story inspires us to seek the hidden nature of God in our own lives. Upon the story’s happy ending, Mordechai and Esther declare the holiday and provide the four mitzvoth that mark the celebration: reading the megillah(telling the story), giving gifts to one another (mishloachmanot), giving money to the poor (matanotl’evyonim), and eating a festive meal (Purim seudah). How do Mordechaiand Esther know the format? Because all our Jewish holidays retell stories associated with the special day,provideways for the community to celebrate, and mandate actions to remember those in need. There is a custom of drowning out utterance of the name “Haman” with the noise of the groggers. To enhance this custom, thanks to Susan Eisen and religious school princi-pal Marisa Bergman, during the megillah reading on Wednesday, March 23, we are supplying Wacky Mac boxes as groggers for the evening for a minimum donation of $1.After the holiday, the boxes of Wacky Mac and your generous donation will be presented to the local kosher foodbank. We will also have our annual pass-the-basket for additional donations during the megillah reading. Purim happens during the Hebrew month of Adar —“Meshenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha”“S/He who enters the month of Adar brings happiness.” May the month of Adar and the holiday of Purim bring our community much happiness and fun! Purim Sameyach!

April 19,2024 /  11 Nisan 5784