March/April 2023


Springtime signals a busy Hebrew calendar beginning with Purim (March 23, 2024), Passover (April 22) and Yom Ha-shoah (observed on Friday May 3rd). Although each of these observances remind us of our history of persecution, oppression, and victimhood, we also experience the deep joy of knowing that we have and that "we shall overcome".


Purim enjoys a thoroughly unique status among our holidays. "Purim Torah" is the only case in our entire tradition when we are encouraged to mock and ridicule our own, most sacred teachings. In fact, the Scroll of Esther is the only book in our Sacred Scriptures to contain NOT ONE SINGLE reference to God. It is the only scroll which can be touched /handled directly without any cloth or protection. It is NOT written in accordance with any of the complex scribal laws and was NOT divinely inspired. It was NOT consigned for writing; NOR for interpretation; prompting E. Bickerman to call it "the strangest book in the Bible". Purim also mandates that the required reading in synagogue be interrupted dozens of times with noisy clamor. (Prior to the introduction of noisemakers in late medieval times, the Megillah reading was to be interrupted more than 40 times with the thunderous stamping of feet of the entire congregation.) Talmud specifies that this scroll be recited/chanted "K'Iggerret"; meaning "with the tone and tune used for a tweet"; i.e.- like the latest, most up-to-the-minute, message. Indeed, this tale of a genocidal, Jew-hating, Iranian-Persian authority, seems to have been ripped from today's headlines.


Lately, (since Oct. 7, 2023) some Israeli Rabbis have reinterpreted this law of "drowning out the name of Haman" to mean that whenever we encounter any advocates or practitioners of genocide then we must engage in thunderous, intense, sustained, and vehement public protest! - an appropriate, Jewish response. It occurred to me that like the author of "ESTHER" - were I to write about genocide - I too would omit any mention of "God". As the Shoah taught us: Don't ask about God! Where were the physicians, nurses, educators, philosophers, social workers, clergy, film makers, jurists, artists, academics, philanthropists, etc.?  We may ask "where was God"? but we are obligated to ask: "where was man"? 


Purim is based on the Torah's injunction: "Timcheh et zaycher... Erase the memory of Amalek" - (the ancestor of Haman). This commandment is included in every catalogue of the 613 mizvot. However, Torah commandments are intended for/in perpetuity and if one fulfills this command to erase the memory, then the memory is erased! No future generations can again perform this duty! This paradoxical conundrum has never been satisfactorily solved. Most commentators define Amalek, not as an ethnic group, but as promoters of gratuitous, genocidal hatred. They must be eliminated in every generation and yet they can never be absolutely erased. This may explain the strange teaching that Purim will be observed by Jews even after all other Holy Days have been abolished!


After the civilized nations of the world  attempted to atone for  the greatest crime in history (the Shoah) by creating a Jewish State in 1948, ALL vowed: "NEVER AGAIN!"...but genocides continue - again and again - in the 21st century: Serbia, Chechnya, Burundi, Yemen, Bosnia, Syria, Uganda ,East Timor, Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Darfur, Congo, Yazidis, Rohingya, Uighurs, etc. Our theology teaches that God cries when He sees how people treat one another. May our lives and deeds bring joy and delight to our Almighty Father in heaven and an all - embracing love for all of HIS children!


Chag Samayach!