- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On March 10, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat and this week, Purim!
There are moments in life when a situation or circumstance summons us to action. Jewish tradition embeds this ideal in our soul.
The Holiness Code in the book of Leviticus, right in the middle of the Torah instructs us on the idea of holiness. It does not define it as some lofty, removed goal from human existence. To the contrary, it places us at the heart of relationship with another person, whether that person is a stranger, a laborer, a neighbor or our own kin. And there it teaches us: Do not stand idly by while your fellow person suffers. (Leviticus 19:16)
When we can take action, it is a sacred act, a holy act to do so.
The Purim story in the Book of Esther conveys this obligation another way through the dramatic story of Mordecai and Queen Esther in King Ahasuerus’ palace, who must halt the devious plans of Haman to kill the Jews. This is not a new story. Pharaoh feared the Hebrew slaves and brought even greater misery. Amalek, attacked the most vulnerable Israelites as they left Egypt. (Deuteronomy 25:17-18) The Talmud teaches that his descendant was Haman.
Haman was full of himself. He could not see past his own interest. Instead, it led to his demise. He had no qualms about manipulating information to his own advantage and was quick to proclaim an edict that would bring disaster to the Jewish people.
Haman didn’t account for the courage and tenacity of Esther urged on and supported by Mordecai. When she was originally told of Haman’s dastardly intention, she hesitated. Mordecai’s directive inspired her to action. He said:
Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis. (Esther 4:13-14)
Who knows if any of us haven’t been placed exactly where we are to stand up and not to stand idly by while others suffer? Who knows whether each of us can take hold of a situation and avert crisis? Who knows where our courage and tenacity will come from?
Jewish tradition knows. It believes in our capacity to do what is right. It knows that we have the potential and ability to assert our strength to help others and in doing so, bring holiness to our very existence.
May Shabbat help us (re)discover our own courage and tenacity in the face of any challenge.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
Join us for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6 p.m. To LiveStream, click here. Torah study begins at 9 a.m. with a short service followed by a lively discussion.
Come celebrate as we tell the story of Purim in wild, funny, appropriate and unexpected ways. There will be lots of festivities with hamantaschen, hopefully with chocolate inside and not prunes. Check it out HERE!
As always, I welcome your comments, reflections, and thoughts here.