There is a word missing from Esther 5:1. It says, “and Esther wore royalties’ – ותלבש אסתר מלכות. Shouldn’t it have said, that she wore royal garments? But rather, she wore royalty itself. According to the Malbim (European commentator of the early 1800’s), her outward appearance was royal because she embodied these qualities, and her clothes were secondary. Do we make our clothes or do they make us? A is often the case, the answer is – yes. The Hebrew for “beged” – one of the words for clothing – shares its root with “bgida’ – betrayal; a covering can at times become false covering (and in English – covering for someone-). What about our outside is real and what is false? Life is a constant stretch to match the two. Perhaps Esther was able to approach the king (or King -) only when the two were the same.
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Why did Haman want to “lose” all the Jews (לאבדם – originally ‘to lose valuable possession’ but also to kill, completely get rid of)? Prejudice and hatred are often attributed to “stupidity” and being “misinformed”. Someone once told me that the holocaust happened because the Jews lived in ghettos and were too isolated. ‘If only the non-Jews in Europe knew the Jews’… Sorry, wrong. The Jews of Germany were as integrated as anyone; my family would have not been saved had they not had close, caring non-Jewish friends. Not to mention, that there is a huge space between not knowing all of certain People and between wishing them all dead.
Luckily, Haman was not shy, and told us his reasoning: “There is one People, scattered and dispersed among the nations… and their laws are different… (which means) they do not execute the laws of the king, and it is not worth it for the king to keep them” (Esther 3:8). It’s an amazing passage, so logical! this is how we go from labeling someone as “different” to (therefore) not being law abiding to (therefore) being not worthwhile for us to have among us. Wait, “we”? Aren’t we talking about Haman? That evil dude? Who’s “we”?
But I never believe there is anyone but “we”, and we – have not changed that much, or else who cares about an isolated incident in Persia of 2500 years ago. At times, I’m sorry we drown Haman’s name during megila reading in noise-makers, though now I wonder if maybe, it’s more of an alert: watch out, there goes Haman! again! right here and now! do something, now, before it’s too late!
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It’s late in the evening. The house smells like baking as an assembly line of mishlochei manot piles up ahead. “Sending gifts (of food) to each other” is one of the mitzvot of Purim, but I can’t help wonder, what are we doing? We’re making these little, hopefully cute, baskets with “stuff”, which we’ll deliver to friends around, only to find at the end of the day, that some of the same friends and others will be leaving us similar baskets at our door. Wouldn’t it be better for each of us to just make our own thing for ourselves?? The exchange seems superfluous and unnecessary.
There are two seas in the Land of Israel: the Sea of Galilee and the Salty – or Dead Sea, both fed by the Jordan River, both running through the Jordan Valley as the Syrian-African Rift crosses Israel. The first one is sweet and fun. Lots of beautiful settlements lay all around it, fishermen enjoy its bounty and for decades, it has been the water source for the rest of the Israel. The latter – is dry, hot and almost inhabitable for anything. The first one has a river that flows in and out of it; the second – has the same river only flowing in but not out. The first – gives and takes, thus remaining sweet; the latter – only takes, thus becoming salty, dead and not suitable for living.
These lakes – that is just the way they are, but they have also served been used as a metaphor. Contrary to what we might think, taking is stifling, while giving and taking, participating in the flow of life, is what is essential to being alive.
This mitzvah of mishloach manot is not seemingly “useful”: each one of us on this holiday can bake their own little cookie, eat it by ourselves and call it a day. But what kind of day shall we call it then??
Purim comes towards the end of the ancient Jewish year, which started with Pesach. It is a reminder that while we might have miracles in our past, those are not what make us survive the day to day and go on tomorrow. It’s not the big thunder and lightening, splitting of the sea and a burning bush but the small acts like making special baskets of goodies for each other that make ours and the life of those around us a little sweeter.