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As I write these words, Purim is just a few days ahead. The choir has run
through the shpiel, the festive Erev Purim meal is being prepared by our
wonderful kitchen crew, the social hall and sanctuary will be decorated — big
fun for all. And, in case we needed any fresh reminders, the villain (Haman!)
who makes his big splash in chapter 3 of the the scroll of Esther remains
frighteningly relevant. Neo-Nazis and Klan members — yes, they’re very much
alive and kicking and distributing hate-filled flyers and vandalizing and
terrorizing — publicized a National Day of Hate against Jews just a few days
ago. The vile ancient scourge has been normalized in places far and near.
Celebrities, Politicians, Athletes — hatred spewing from their mouths. What I
would’ve once considered the stuff of fevered dystopian rantings is now front
and center. The Scroll of Esther, in its dark and foreboding glory, is talking to
Not for a moment would I minimize the cute child-centered presentation of
Purim. But it must be acknowledged aloud — this festival’s unfiltered grownup
message would be brushed off at our peril. Haman struts in public,
unembarrassed, spewing hatred. He’s done hiding in the shadows. He has
been normalized. More than a few onlookers, not just in Shushan, but our
country, in our state, not many zip codes away — there are folks who nod
approvingly. Pay attention.
Mordechai takes counsel with Esther and reminds her that she became
Queen for a reason, that it’s her now-or-never moment —and she bravely
fashions a plan. God’s hidden hand animates the scroll — the insomniac king,
the wine banquets. The heroes step up and the crisis is averted. Joy and light
in Shushan, a narrowly averted calamity. The stuff of fairy tales? I used to
think so. We should all know better by now. Purim is also for grownups.
Beyond the chuckles and the one-liners, Purim is telling us to Pay Attention.