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Rabbi's Week In Review - 3/14/2022

03/14/2022 04:40:50 PM


This week we celebrate Purim. For me, Purim always brings on mixed emotions. In essence, we are celebrating a victory, albeit a mythical one. I have come to accept the notion that we need to get a win every so often, and that by experiencing an annual victory in our sacred space, as opposed to meeting the threat of violence with violence in real life, we don’t re-enact the genocide described in Chapter 9 of the Book of Esther.

On the negative side of the ledger, this is a holiday that on some level gives license to violence. In rabbinic conversations, in various chat rooms, rabbis are struggling with the concept of Haman as Amalek, our constant enemy, whose memory we are commanded to blot out; yet we need to remember Amalek in order to do the blotting. This struggle with how we confront evil in the world is the struggle I confront every Purim.

Beyond that, growing up seeing our “sanctuaries,” our places of sacred refuge, turned on their heads in raucous celebration has been an overwhelming and disruptive experience for me. Not to mention the fact that I have never been enthusiastic about dressing in costume.  

I don’t ignore Purim, and I do understand that, particularly after a long winter (not to mention Covid), we could use the holiday to blow off some steam. Yet with the ongoing unbridled evil of Putin, and threats of violence against civil servants such as school-board members here at home, I am somewhere between cautious and hesitant to lean into what may be interpreted or misinterpreted as a victory based on might — whether or not it is also right.

Don’t get me wrong. Ukraine and all people who value free, democratic and open societies have every right to defend themselves against authoritarian (really now totalitarian) tyrants. Beyond that, I/we cannot ignore how the bravery of the Ukrainian people has brought a sense of unifying resolve to countries in the world that value democratic principles. (I hope it leads our country back toward a greater commitment to those principles, where truth is a must, and peaceful dissent and nonviolent disagreement are celebrated.)  

I have begun to recite a prayer for peace written by Rabbi Nathan Sternhartz, a rabbi who lived in the Ukraine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is a prayer petitioning G-d that all leaders everywhere in the world act with compassion, and that the land be rid of vicious beasts. Kein y’hi ratzon — may that be G-d’s will.

Tue, May 24 2022 23 Iyyar 5782