So how far are we willing to go in order to stand up for what we believe? Would you put it all on the line and risk your life? Would you compromise your own personal principles as did Esther (participate in a beauty contest, whatever she had to do…) in order to position yourself to someday help those who are important to you? Will we do the right thing when we are asked?
Purim is so important that when the Messianic age arrives, we will continue to celebrate this important day. We are reminded by Esther’s bravery that sometimes we are placed in situations where we can truly make a difference and it is up to us to respond. Think about how different the world would have been if Esther didn’t tell King Ahasveurus that she was Jewish. Are we willing to stand up and acknowledge who we are when our identities are being challenged? What does this say to us about our personal Jewish identities and our connection to Israel, when standing up for our Jewishness or to defend the state of Israel isn’t popular? How do we determine whether the cause is worth standing up for or whether we should back away from a particular issue?
These are some of the questions which the celebration of Purim raises for us. I wish to comment about a coincidence of numerical values. ( or maybe it is not a coincidence) We know that each Hebrew letter has a numerical value which one can learn more about by studying about gematria. The words ” blessed be Mordecai and cursed be Haman” (in Hebrew) add up to the same numerical value. There are many explanations for this, but the one I believe is relevant for us today is that each of us has some of Mordecai and some of Haman in us. It is up to us to decide upon which characteristics we wish to act. Are we going to follow a course of action that is praiseworthy and helpful? Or…are we going to follow a course of action that is destructive and leads to negative energy? Each of us is faced with challenges in our personal lives, our professional lives, our volunteer activities, and in all aspects of our lives. How do we respond? Are we brave like Esther and take risks? Are we worthy of blessing and praise by the ways in which we respond? Or…do we fan flames, listen to negative speech, and pursue actions that are closer to “cursed be Haman?”
What is so wonderful and timeless about this story is that it is all about us. I hope we can find inspiration from hearing the reading of the Megillah that will lead us to want to do the right thing in all different aspects of our lives.
And…remember it is a mitzvah to hear the reading of the Megillah, to celebrate Purim with a special meal and party (and drink RESPONSIBLY (and not drive) if it is legal for you to drink!!!, give food packages to your friends (Shelach manot), and help provide for the poor and those in need (matanot l’evyonim).
Hag Purim Sameach!
Rabbi Bruce Aft
GMU Hillel Rabbinic Advisor