A community of communities

February 2018

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 9:33am -- Rabbi

This is Shabbat Zachor, the "Shabbat of Memory," on which we remember Amalek, the ancestor of the wicked Haman, villain of the Purim story - which we will read on Wednesday night at our joint Purim celebration.  The Torah commands that we "wipe out" the name of Amalek, a commandment that we fulfill on Purim by making lots of noise whenever Haman's name is mentioned.  But why is it so important that we retain such bad memories, the times in which the Jewish people were attacked or threatened?  We remember the bad times in our past not only to rejoice that we overcame them but also to inspire us with hope and resolve in the present.  The challenges facing us may be grave, but we know from our history that we have the strength and the courage to face them, to do the hard work of driving change, and even to rejoice at our successes.  So while we whirl our groggers and eat our hamantaschen, let us also fill up our stores of resilience and joy for the road ahead.  Hag Purim Sameah! 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 02/16/2018 - 9:05am -- Rabbi

What if the opposite happened, not just in the Purim story, but also in our lives?  What if the state of the world brought us not to despair but to resolve?  What if horrific gun violence did not dissolve us in a sea of tears and "thoughts and prayers" but strengthened our courage to stand up and end it?  What if awareness of our vulnerability prompted us not to withdraw from the world but to engage more deeply?  What if the opposite happened?  The teaching of the Book of Esther is that this is possible, that the horror and pain we see in the world can propel us to reach out in love and to work with hope.  Ken y'hi ratzon - may this be God's will for us.

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 02/09/2018 - 9:55am -- Rabbi

On Wednesday night we will enter the month of Adar, the month of the holiday of Purim.  On Purim we will read the crazy, upside-down story of Queen Esther, where despite evil counselors and foolish kings, all turns out well, and we are commanded to shout and sing and drink and eat in celebration.  But what if we don't feel like celebrating?  What if we're not feeling the joy?  In the world around us, injustice and threats to liberty and well-being abound; it would not be surprising if our hearts were full of grief more than happiness at this moment.  So what are we to do with the Talmud's declaration that the month of Adar must herald joy, that we are required to celebrate and be happy at this time of year?  Perhaps the answer comes from the megilah itself, the Book of Esther that we read with such ceremony on Purim.  "That month" - this very month of Adar we are about to enter - "was reversed for them from grief to joy" (Esther 9:22).  In other words, the month of Adar was declared a month of happiness, not because the people were already joyful but because they were full of grief.  The month of Adar asks us to reach down into ourselves, despite the bad feeling and sadness that might surround us, and to pull joy out of ourselves, to reverse our grief, even if only for a short time.  Despite all the signs that the world is dark, we have to reaffirm for ourselves the possibility of light, the potential for joy that always lies just below the surface.  So even as we struggle for justice in this world, let the month of Adar open us to joy.  Hodesh tov - a good and happy month to us all!

Tags:
Comments: 0