GOOD MORNING! Eli Wiesel was quoted on Israeli radio last night speaking at the conference on European Anti-Semitism that the Jews of Europe live in fear. The Europeans are not asking IF the Jews will leave Europe, but rather WHEN. At this time with resurfacing anti-Semitism in the world, Mel Gibson's Passion Play movie is particularly odious in the same manner as the European Passion Plays in the past were notorious in provoking anti-Semitism.
I will not attend the movie. I have no interest in its portrayal of events long lost in the murky past. Obsessing on who killed someone for over 2,000 years is not the most positive focus in life. In addition, it seems to me that the answer is irrelevant for three reasons:
- God cannot be killed.
- 2,000 years is a long enough statute of limitations for culpability.
- If a theology says that salvation can only come through the death of an individual, why the effort to pin blame and persecute someone for his death?
In each and every generation anti-Semitism raises its ugly head. Shortly, we will be celebrating our 2,359th annual celebration of gratitude to the Almighty for saving the Jewish people from anti-Semites ... we call it Purim. The anti-Semites keep coming after us and we not only keep outlasting them, but on the journey we have helped civilize humanity (to the degree that it is civilized) -- we have taught the world respect for human life, the concept of world peace, the notion of justice and equality for all people irrespective of race, sex or social status, the goal of universal education, the importance of a strong family, and social responsibility for each other and the whole world.
I wouldn't call it a fair trade; it's the price for being a light unto the nations. Perhaps Mark Twain put it best:
"If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. What is the secret of his immortality?" ("Concerning The Jews," Harper's Magazine 1897)
Purim is coming up next week, Saturday night, March 6th, through all day Sunday! The Fast of Esther is Thursday, March 4th. I was perusing Shimon Apisdorf's The One Hour Purim Primer - everything a family needs to understand, celebrate and enjoy Purim (available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242). One thing that Rabbi Apisdorf wrote, greatly impacted me: If a family is a "twice a year to synagogue" family, then he "votes for Purim and Simchas Torah (when everyone dances around celebrating the completion and beginning of reading the Torah)." Our kids should see and be a part of the joy of being Jewish!
Q & A: WHAT IS PURIM AND HOW DO WE CELEBRATE IT?
Purim comes from the word "pur" in Persian which means "lots" - as in, "Haman cast lots for the most 'auspicious' date to kill the Jews." The date fell out on the 13th of Adar. The events of that date were turned around from a day of destruction to a day of victory and joy. We celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar for:
"...they gained relief on the fourteenth, which they made a day of feasting and gladness." (Megilat Esther 9:17)
(In very few places - most notably in Jerusalem - Purim is celebrated the following day, the 15th day of Adar. The Sages declared that all cities which were walled cities at the time of Joshua should celebrate Purim the following day. This is to commemorate the extra day which King Ahashverosh granted Esther to allow the Jews of Shushan [the capital of Persia, which, by the way, was a walled city] to deal with their enemies. In Shushan they gained relief on the fifteenth. The holiday is called Shushan Purim in those locales.)
There are two ways in which to try to destroy the Jewish people - physically and spiritually. Our enemies have attempted both. Chanukah is the celebration over those who have tried and failed to culturally assimilate us (the Greeks and Western Culture); Purim is the celebration over those who have tried and failed to physically destroy us (the Persians, ad nauseam).
Why do we masquerade with costumes and masks on Purim? Nowhere in the Megilat Esther is God's name mentioned. If one so desires, he can see the whole Purim story as a chain of coincidences totally devoid of Divine Providence. Just as we hide behind masks, but our essence is still there, so too God has "hidden His face" behind the forces of history, but is still there guiding history.
Why do we make noise every time Haman's name is mentioned in the Megillah? The answer: Haman was an Amalekite, from that people which embodies evil and which the Torah commands us to obliterate. By blotting out Haman's name we are symbolically wiping out the Amalekites and evil.
The holiday is celebrated by hearing the Megillah Saturday night and Sunday morning. During the day only, we fulfill three mitzvot:
- Matanot L'evyonim - giving gifts or money to at least two poor people. (While it is good to give locally, one can fulfill the Mitzvot by giving at http://kerenyehoshuavyisroel.com/ for the poor Jews of Jerusalem).
- Mishloach Manot - the "sending of portions," giving at least two ready-to-eat foods to a minimum of one person. One should send via a messenger. (You can order Kosher Purim baskets from: White's Candies - Tel. (305) 865-0433 or http://florists.ftd.com/surf).
- Seudah - a festive meal. During the meal we are commanded to drink wine until we don't know the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman." (It can also be fulfilled by drinking a little and taking a nap -one doesn't know the difference between them while sleeping...)
Why are we instructed to drink this amount? In a certain sense, Purim is greater than Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we fast and it is easy for our soul to have dominance over the body. Purim is the epitome of integrating the physical and the spiritual towards realizing that the Almighty loves us. The only thing that stands between you and the Almighty - is you. The wine and the spirit of the day help us get beyond the barrier - to realize that everything comes from the Almighty and that it is ultimately for our good!
The Mitzvot of Mishloach Manot and giving gifts to the poor were prescribed to generate brotherly love between all Jews. When there is love and unity amongst us, our enemies cannot harm us!
The Torah view of cosmology is that every season of the year has a spiritual component and opportunity. Passover is the time of Freedom, Shavuot is the time of committing ourselves to the Torah, Rosh Hashana for judgment, Yom Kippur for atonement. Purim is the time of joy in obliterating the enemies who seek to destroy us. It was more than coincidental that the war to remove Saddam Hussein began right on Purim! The first Gulf War ended on Purim...
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's Torah reading is an architect's or interior designer's dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to bring an offering of the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.
The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was a large area approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).
CANDLE LIGHTING - February 27:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:50 Hong Kong 6:07 Honolulu 6:15
J'Burg 6:23 London 5:17 Los Angeles 5:28
Melbourne 6:42 Miami 6:02 Moscow 5:41
New York 5:26 Singapore 7:03
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A measure of a person is what angers him.
In Loving Memory of