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go to shul on purim

03/16/2022 09:45:59 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I have a colleague who is not very enamored by Purim. In fact, he seriously dislikes it. I, on the other hand, have always liked Purim. I have been given the opportunity to write, direct and produce Purim shpiels over the decades, something I would have never expected that I would be doing when I assumed my first pulpit. I have appreciated the support and encouragement of leadership and congregants, even though my humor can either be that of a groaner or something to be collected off of the roof at a later date. Some shpiels have used rather elaborate sets, and “A Hard Night’s Megillah” featured a band. All in all, I have had a good time, and I believe that most people have as well.

I’ve been thinking differently about Purim the past few weeks, and while my enthusiasm has not waned, my reasons for celebrating Purim have changed. No one has to be informed that antisemitism continues to grow in the United States, as antisemites feel enabled, especially since the Charlottesville rally in 2017, to spew their H speech, and even worse, act upon it. Growing up, I used to think that antisemitism was the price of admission for being Jewish in the United States. Ever since 10.27 I reject that notion outright, as antisemitism will never be acceptable, nor will the purveyors of it be viewed that way either. To dislike an entire group of people, and frequently exhibiting that dislike through acts of violence, has never been acceptable in America, and that has not changed. If anything, those who are antisemitic generally do not limit their H only to the Jewish community, but are equal-opportunity spewers of H to anyone who is not identically like them.

Purim is a holiday about an antisemite who tried to use his power to eradicate the entire Jewish community of Persia. Only through the bravery of Esther did the Jewish community survive this existential threat. That is cause to celebrate, or, as the adage goes, they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat hamantaschen.

Purim has become the ultimate exhibition of chutzpah, as we publicly celebrate the defeat of an enemy, which is something that the Jewish community has as a rule shunned. Not only do we boo, hiss and enthusiastically spin our graggers to drown out the original “he who must not be named”, but there is even the tradition of writing his name on the bottom of your shoe, and literally erasing out the name. We write Purim shpiels where we poke fun at all of the figures in the story, but especially you know who. What an outrageous thing to do for a religious civilization that has experienced antisemitism since the days of slavery in Egypt over 3,500 years ago! But I think that Purim this year is more important than ever.

We continue to read stories in the media of Jews being physically attacked, property damaged, mezuzot defaced and stolen from college dormitories, and swastikas painted. What should our response be to this unending antisemitism? Go to shul on Purim! For two hours, we have an opportunity to forget about the constant antisemitism outside and focus on booing you know who, laughing, and even some zaniness – a respite that we all deserve. That’s how we respond to antisemitism. We do more Jewish. This Wednesday evening, schlep yourself to synagogue, and engage in the festivities, celebrate the victory over the the antisemite, and be proud that you are Jewish. That is how we celebrate Purim. May your Purim be freilich and your hamantaschen tasty.

Sun, May 22 2022 21 Iyyar 5782