The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

Purim


Purim is a festive Jewish holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the biblical Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which usually falls sometime in February or March. (This year corresponding to February 28th). According to Jewish tradition, Adar is the happiest, most joyous month of the Hebrew calendar. In fact, its motto is “When Adar comes, joy is increased.” The abundance of joy in Adar is primarily due to the Jewish holiday of Purim.


Purim is so-called because the villain of the story, Haman, cast the "pur" (the “lot” as in “lottery”) against the Jews yet failed to destroy them. The most important Purim custom is reading the Purim Story from the Scroll of Esther, also called the Megillah. Jews usually attend synagogue for this special reading. Whenever Haman (the villain's) name is mentioned people will boo, howl, hoot and shake noisemakers (groggers) to express their dislike of him.

 

This story is one of the most beloved in the Jewish community because of the hope that it gives a minority living in a hostile majority culture. Even though G-d is not mentioned at all in the Book of Esther, from a Jewish perspective, G-d is the one who is pulling the strings of redemption behind the scenes.

 

But who is Esther and why is Purim her story? Esther was an orphan who was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. She was brought to King Ahashverosh’s palace to compete with many Persian women to replace Queen Vashti after her abrupt departure. Once there, she discovered a plot by Ahashverosh’s right-hand-man, Haman, to slaughter the Jews. No one knew Esther was Jewish; it was something she hid from everyone.

 

Esther was forced into a life she did not choose. She was forced into a role that could have so easily robbed her of her dignity and her faith. But instead Queen Esther became a heroine. She kept her faith and her dignity. She refused to give up even when everything seemed lost. She took her tragic story and used it to transform her life.


Esther took the suffering that she experienced as an orphan and used it to make her stronger. She chose to use her pain instead of being suffocated by it. Esther could have decided to make herself comfortable in the luxuries and pleasures of the palace and ignore the world and her people beyond its walls. But instead, Esther knew she had a responsibility to stand up for her people and chose to live for something greater than herself. She could have decided to use just her own resources to try to save the Jewish people. But she chose instead to reach out to every single person and beg them to pray for her. She needed their prayers. She had the humility to be able to say: I need your help. Please fight beside me. Esther’s faith was persistent. Faith means that we persist even when we are exhausted and afraid. Esther did not give up even when she felt like she couldn’t go on. Instead she prayed. She found the faith to reach out, to beg for strength and to find a way to make the impossible possible.


Purim is an opportunity to transform our mundane pleasures into spiritual joy. Our fragmented communities into a unified nation. Our despair into redemption. Our stagnation into growth. Let’s follow Queen Esther’s path as we overcome our obstacles and move forward.


With best wishes for a joyous Purim and may we live to see a world free of Hamans.


Rabbi Stuart A. Paris, HaKohen



We thank you in advance for your help and generosity.



Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah