Purim

| February 19, 2009

Courtesy Flickr user Nate Steiner (http://flickr.com/photos/nate/)

Courtesy Flickr user Nate Steiner (http://flickr.com/photos/nate/)

Purim is my favorite holiday, and not just for the spinning graggers & delicious hamantashen. The megillah is an inspiring story of Jewish unity amidst insurmountable struggle. When the wicked Haman threatens brave Mordechai, he turns his wrath not only against him, but the entire Jewish population. In response, noble Queen Esther fasts for three days before approaching King Ahasuerus. Every Jew in the region joins her, this time not because of an oppressor’s edict but for a show of great communal strength. For the final chapters of the megillah (the part they don’t teach you in Hebrew school), when King Ahasuerus decrees the Jews can take up arms against their Persian attackers, it’s again our communal strength that enables a swift, sound victory.

The tradition most closely associated with Purim is the masquerade. Most of this is joyful, celebrating Queen Esther’s disguise before the king. But our great foe Haman still shrouds himself as well, this time not as an evil vizier, but under the guise of global hunger, filthy water & inadequate healthcare. This new Haman threatens not only the Jewish community, but over a billion from all faiths & nations, living in poverty worldwide.

Several elements of the Purim celebration embrace a tradition of advocacy. When we send mishloach manot baskets, we proclaim our awareness of the importance of food and nutrition in the lives of our loved ones. Many of our donors donate to MAZON, sending tribute cards in addition to or in lieu of physical baskets, sharing their commitment to ending local, national, and global hunger. Others make seasonal donations, fulfilling the Purim tradition of matanot la’evyonim, gifts for the poor. As we retell the story of Esther every year, we cannot merely listen; we must relive the story through to our victory. Having proven our strength at defeating Haman’s past incarnation, we must stay united and vanquish his modern form.

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