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Community Corner: Matthew Weintraub, Executive Director 

03/15/2022 11:59:41 AM


What’s the difference between Purim and Pesach?  It sounds like the start of a good joke, right?

As Purim and Pesach are around the corner, I have been thinking about the two very significant distinctions in the leadership of our Purim and Passover heroes.

In the story of Pesach, and in Exodus, God's presence is mighty. God, with Moses as God's messenger, delivers Pharaoh the ten plagues and the miracles to save the people of Israel. In this story, and the Torah in general, the world is governed by a just and moral God that intervenes when necessary.

In the story of Purim, the world is upside down and God is hidden, nowhere to be seen or felt.  After the King’s decree that all of the Jews of Persia be destroyed, as influenced and directed by Haman, Mordechai “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1).” He thought by being obedient to ritual he was appealing to God to step in and save the Jews. But nothing! God did not step in. Mordechai realized he and Esther were the ones needed to alter this chaos.

Mordechai appeals to his niece, Esther, to ask the King to intervene. But after nine years of living in the King’s palace, where she hid her Jewishness, Esther forgot who she was.  In the palace, Esther is safe and isolated from the real issues of the world.  Everything outside of the palace is not her problem. Ignorance is bliss.

But with tremendous resolve, Mordechai gets Esther to snap out of it. He reminds her that she is a Jew, that if she doesn’t do something she will be cursed to a life of inauthenticity and will never be whole, and if nothing else, maybe she was brought to the palace and given this privilege to rise up in this exact moment. This is the purpose for her existence. She is called upon to lead in this moment to save her people. And she does!

In Rabbi Ed Feinstein’s “The Chutzpah Imperative,” he discusses the likeness of the Shushan story to that of Disney’s Aladdin, both stories that  feature a foolish king, an evil power-hungry advisor, a beautiful princess and a daring hero. Same story, same characters with one big difference. Megillat Esther is missing the genie. Some would think that the genie metaphor could represent God.  Why doesn’t Mordechai simply rub the lamp and God emerges and saves the Jews of Persia? But there is not a single mention of God in the entire Book of Esther?  Why?  Because, according to Rabbi Feinstein, in real life, God is not our genie! This is not how God works! He writes, “if you and your ideals are to survive in this morally chaotic world, you must find the power somewhere else.”

We are living in a time where we can certainly find parallels in the real world to the Purim story.  The world is upside down. We are experiencing pandemic, war, hatred, division, cruelty, crime and hunger. We are living in chaos! It is time to wake up and snap out of it – we will bring the change we need!

Pesach is what we want – for God to step in and save us from this chaos.

Purim is what we get – God is not the solution to our problems. We are!

We get to decide if we are going to take control of our own destiny and if we are going to be a leader when it matters most. In this way we are all Godly.

May we all find the calling to be heroes, like Mordechai and Esther. The time is now!

Matthew Weintraub
Executive Director

Thu, March 23 2023 1 Nisan 5783