It is tradition here at the J for our Early Childhood students and several brave staff to dress in costume, parade around and have a fun time. Other Purim traditions include games, noise making, hamantaschen eating, and mask making. With Purim in the air, I wanted to also take this opportunity to share an important teaching that can be gleaned from the story of Purim itself.

In the text of the Scroll of Esther that is read on Purim, God’s name is not mentioned even once.  It is the actions of the Jewish heroes Mordecai and Esther that save the Jewish people and not God.  One lesson we can learn from this is that we should not wait for God to perform supernatural miracles as in the story of the exodus, but that we as human beings are the ones alone who control our own destiny.

A different interpretation claims that even though God is not explicitly mentioned, God is indeed present in the story.  When Mordecai instructs Esther to help the Jewish people by going to plead with King Ahashverosh, he says to her, “Do not think that you will escape this decree in the house of the king.  For if you withhold your help at this time, relief and deliverance will come from another Place, but you and your father’s house will perish” (Esther 4:13-14).  Because one of God’s Hebrew names is Hamakom, meaning “the place,” some hold that this is a reference to God and in the end God would have saved the Jews if Esther did not.

There is one modern commentator that combines these two understandings.  Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin wrote, “Purim teaches us that God will no longer intervene for us and save us, at least not obviously and supernaturally…it says that God will be hidden but not distant, silent but not inactive.  God will work through us in our daily lives.  And any one of us, every one of us, can become the instrument of God, for good and not for evil, for life and not for death.”

According to this view, God is not the puppet master behind the scenes controlling the actions of people but neither is God totally absent.  Since we are created in God’s image we are partners with God in controlling our own fate.  While there are some things that ultimately are out of our control, we play a role in determining the direction of our lives as individuals and as a community.  With this comes a responsibility to be active voices in our families and our community and advocate for the values that we hold dear.

Chag Sameach – Happy Purim to all!