This week we Jews prepare for the holiday of Purim. Perhaps you think Purim is only for the kids. If so you miss some of the most important lessons for our day and time.
Purim is a holiday of merriment but it masks some very important discussions and questions! The whole notion of dressing in costume is but one example. When we are in a costume we are ourselves but at the same time not ourselves. We are dressed as other. But inside the costume we know that we are our self.
This is such an important message for the story of Purim-knowing what is exposed and what is hidden. We know that Esther hid her identity and then exposed her identity when the stake were a matter of life and death. Same is true for many of us in our daily lives. We remain hidden until the stakes are so high we can no longer hide.
Sadly there are still some people who choose death rather than grapple with their own identities.
Imagine if Esther had remained silent. She would have watched Haman decimate the Jewish people and eventually perhaps she ould have died too. The cost of remaining hidden and silent is always a great one.
That is why on Purim we are told to make noise. Noise enough to drown out the name of Haman and all threats to the Jewish people and threats that would hide any of our identities.
This theme of hidden and revealed is woven throughout the holiday. Even the special scroll we read, Megillat Esther is a pun of sorts. Megillah comes from the word Megaleh which means to reveal and Esther is related to the word – nistar or hester which means hidden. This is the only book of the entire Bible where God’s name isn’t mentioned–and so God is hidden in this book only to be revealed in the great miracle of Esther’s actions. This holiday of Purim is often called Yom Nes Nistar-the holiday of hidden Miracles. This is in contrast with Pesach which comes one month after Purim which is a holiday of revealed miracles, a nes niglah, i.e. the plagues and splitting of the Red Sea.
For each of us today the lessons are many fold. What is hidden and what is revealed? What parts of our lives do we hide or share? What miracles still abound? And where do you find the Source of All Being revealed in our world today?
I wish you a very happy and joyous Purim and I hope to see you Saturday night as we read the megillah and celebrate together.
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I have just returned from 2 1/2 days in Washington D.C. I was attending the annual AIPAC Policy conference along with 15,000 others who love Israel. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This important organization builds bridges and support for the State of Israel with the United States. AIPAC educates Congress and our elected leaders and works to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the U.S. AIPAC works effectively on college campuses with campus student leaders to combat the Anti-Israel fervor and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel. They educate and reach African American leaders, Hispanic leaders and Christian leaders and educate them about the strategic importance of Israel and a side of the story that they may not have heard before. As we heard from the President of the Washington local SEIU 87, a dynamic Latina, named Olga Miranda said, “I never knew Israel’s story until AIPAC introduced me to it. I merely repeated what I heard on the news. Today I know there are two sides to every story. I am pro-Israel and I am the face of AIPAC.”
While I have attended local AIPAC events I had never been to the annual policy conference. We heard from an array of speakers including Hon Isaac Herzog, the head of Israel’s Labor Party, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Charles Schumer, and Sen. Robert Menendez, head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. It was amazing to me in a town so divided by partisanship to see the House Majority whip Rep Eric Cantor (R) stand side by side with the House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) and together talk about their common and strong support of the Israel -U.S. relationship. Hoyer couldn’t resist chiding the Jewish Cantor that he had been to Israel more times!
One of the most powerful presentations came from Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid) the first Ethiopian Member Knesset. Side by side they each recounted a similar story of being refugees: one from Cuba and one from Ethiopia and their journeys to become legislators and all they had in common. The common values of freedom and democracy and opportunity of Israel and the United States were never more evident.
All of this and many workshops on everything from the peace process, the war in Syria, Israel’s technology revolution, Iran, fighting Boycotts of Israel, the rise of Anti-Semitism in Europe, climate change and water issues in the US and Israel and so much more; workshops for Christians, students, Latinos, LGBT receptions and how to lobby Congress. Tuesday of the conference is devoted to lobbying your Congress person and Senators for Israel.
I also learned despite some critics that AIPAC is real bi-partisan. There has been a lot of critique on the left that AIPAC became a Republican stronghold. I didn’t get that. It was clear they were committed to bi-partisanship both in representing Israel’s political spectrum and the here in the U.S. Yes there are partisan Jews on both sides of the aisle. But as someone who is center left on Israel, meaning I believe strongly in states for two people, a Jewish democratic Israel side by side with a Democratic Palestine both who can live in peace and security, I did not feel out of place at all. Other progressives were there and I believe it is important to gather there so that the entire spectrum on Israel is represented and is part of the solution for a healthy Israel -U.S. relationship!
I learned a lot in a short period of time. I hope next year some of you will join me for AIPAC Policy Conference 2015. It is March 1-3, 2015. Registration is already open. If you love Israel and you want the US and Israel to remain strong partners for peace, freedom, trade, innovation, democracy, and security then you want to be a part of AIPAC. Join me there. I have already registered. How about you? If you want to register or view the videos from the conference here is the link: www.aipac.org
This is a post from the World Union of Progressive Judaism about the situation in Ukraine. This morning another synagogue was vandalized. It seems history is repeating itself. Please read below and consider helping.
Dear World Union Family:
This morning, as our community members arrived at the synagogue center in Simferopol, they discovered anti semitic slogans stating “Death to the Jews” painted all over the doors of the synagogue, as well as damage to windows and other parts of the building.
As the unrest in Ukraine unfolds, concerns for the safety and well being of our communities in the Ukraine is growing steadily, especially in the rural areas and Crimea.
As seen on the news, the Crimean peninsula is considered of strategic importance to Russia, and at the time of this newsflash it seems that Russian troops have occupied the main airports and centers of power in the capital and surroundings. This violent atmosphere has quickly given rise to harassment and attacks on our communities.
Rabbi Michael Kapustin says:” The city is occupied by Russians. Apparently Russians intend to take over the Crimea and make it a part of Russia. If this were the case I would leave the country. In this case I will leave this country since I want to live in democratic Ukraine. In the meanwhile, in spite of all our hesitation,s my family has decided to stay. If anyone comes tonight I will be in the synagogue to light the candles. Wider Shabbat services will not take place due to security reasons.
According to Anatoly Gendin, chair of the community, “Clearly, it was important for the anti-Semites to commit this crime. Since the crisis began prices went up by 30%, pensions aren’t being paid. As usual, Jews are blamed reason of these disasters and Jews are held responsible. I am afraid to think how this will progress. “
As the situation is unsafe, the community has instructed all members to stay indoors and stock up on food and supplies.
The WUPJ has initiated an emergency campaign to support our communities through this crisis, and hope to provide in hope to provide urgently needed security measures, supplies and equipment to the communities. If you are interested in joining this effort please click here http://www.wupj.org/Contribute/Giving.asp
We hope and pray that quiet will return soon to the streets of Ukraine, and as Shabbat settles in on the streets.
Ose Shalom Bimromov – May the One who makes peace in the heavens, help bring peace here on earth, for all the Household of Israel and for all God’s creations.
Mike Grabiner, Chairman of World Union for Progressive Judaism
Anne Molloy, Chair of WUPJ FSU Committee
Alex Kagan, Director of WUPJ FSU Program
UKRAINE EMERGENCY RESPONSE FEBRUARY 28, 2014
TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION, PLEASE GO TO:
IF USING A CREDIT CARD, in box that says, “ENTER DESCRIPTION” Please indicate Ukraine APPEAL