On Wednesday, you should have received the first edition of the new Jewish Review. This bi-weekly online newspaper is something we are quite proud to bring back to our community, and I know it is a “labor of love” for editor, Deborah Moon. She would love to hear your feedback on the content, layout, ease of use, print ability, or if you did not receive it. Email Deborah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Talmud says in Taanit Chapter 4 – Rav Yehudah, son of Rav Shmuel bar Shilas, said in the name of the Rav, just as when Av begins we curtail joy, so too when Adar begins we increase joy. We are currently in the happy month of Adar and on Monday night we will be dressed in our Purim costumes and hear the reading of Megillat Esther (Book of Esther). I hope everyone enjoys the Purim holiday. Here is a calendar listing of Purim happenings around town. Click here for a wonderful video primer on the story of Purim.
The Book of Esther describes events that occurred approximately 2,500 years ago after the destruction of the First Temple when the majority of Jews lived under Persian rule. Shortly after the story described in the Book of Esther, the Persian king Darius Hystaspes allowed the Jews to rebuild the Temple. The Second Temple was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
Scholars have attempted to resolve many issues about the Book of Esther. One interesting note is that the name of G-d does not appear in the entire book. There is no mention of prayer or of the holiday of Passover, which is when some of the story takes place. In fact, at first glance, the book seems to be a secular, rather than religious, document.
One possible answer is that a major point of the whole story is to show the hidden hand of G-d in everyday life. An 11th century commentator, Abraham Ibn Ezra, states that G-d‘s name is not mentioned because this was a royal Persian document sent all over the empire. If G-d‘s name had been mentioned, the pagans throughout the empire would have substituted the name of a foreign deity.
One of the highlights of the Book of Esther is the moment when Mordechai finds out that the decree to destroy the Jewish people has been signed. He tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of mourning, goes out into the city, and cries.
After rending his clothes, Mordechai begins to lead the effort against the decree of annihilation. The first person he went to was his cousin Esther, who was living in the royal palace. Mordechai tries to tell her that she must save her people, but she apologizes and explains: "I have not been called to come to the king for thirty days."
At this point, Mordechai utters the following words: "If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's household will perish; and who knows that you have not come to your royal position for a time such as this?"
This was the sentence that transformed Esther. She was empowered and became the player who changed the entire course of the story. From this point until the end of Megillat Esther, her actions are an expression of the responsibility she has been given.
Many of us often find ourselves in positions of influence that can change reality. We have the potential to transform. Unfortunately, we tend to shy away from that responsibility. We often do not want to disrupt the regular routine of our lives. We are tempted to remain in safe environments, and stick to our daily routines, asking ourselves "Who am I to take on the world's problems?"
Mordechai's poignant and incisive statement removed Esther from the palace and moved her into action. It made it clear that she was in a position of influence and that the time had come. It stressed if you do not do what is in your power, someone else will. Esther was transformed -- and proves that we each have a chance to be a queen, to be a leader, and to make a difference.
We have all been following COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the news. Please know that the health and safety of our community is always our top priority. The first step is for all organizations and individuals to increase their usual hygiene practices.
We are in touch with and monitor recommendations from federal, state, and local health agencies on a regular basis, including the Center for Disease Control, the Oregon Health Authority, and the Multnomah County Health Department. Note that health experts believe that it is possible for an individual to carry the COVID-19 virus without showing any symptoms, making it all the more important that we follow the steps below, even if we feel healthy.
Please be mindful about washing your hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoiding shaking hands, and most of all, if you feel sick (fever or flu-like symptoms) please stay home or seek medical advice.
Finally, this week we watched election results in both the United States and Israel. “Super Tuesday” is now behind us and we have an interesting primary season ahead. I hope that everyone exercises their right to vote in the primary, as well as the general election.
In addition, Israel held its third election in the past 12 months. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party garnered the most seats in the Knesset and he will now work to form a coalition government with a majority of 61+ seats. We will see what happens in the weeks ahead.
Shabbat shalom and have a very happy Purim.