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ISRAEL

 
 
 
 

PURIM

 
 

RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO, MWU DEPUTY - DIRECTOR GENERAL & DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION

חג פורים
Purim: Opposing Evil in the World

By: Rabbi Carlos Tapiero, Carlos@maccabiworld.org
MWU Deputy - Director General & Director of Education

 

Kfar HaMaccabiah, Tuesday, February 19, 2013

 ט' באדר תשע"ג

Dear Friends,

Purim is an occasion when nobody will tell you to keep the noise down in shul; in fact, we are positively encouraged to engage in chaotic noise-generation.  One of the reasons, of course, is the massive presence and involvement of children in reading the Scroll (Megillat) of Esther, which tells the story of our salvation from the hands of Haman the Evildoer during the reign of the King Ahasuerus of Persia -Achashverosh.  The cheerful noise of our little ones is the triumphant proof of our victory over those who sought to destroy our People; it is the happy sound of Jewish survival and continuity. Our joy is multiplied by the joy of our children in this thunderous celebration.

 

 There is another reason for the deliberate noise of a ritual and symbolic character.  We are required to shout very loudly during the reading of the 10 chapters of the Scroll of Esther; this is no mere attempt to be noisy, but an intention to totally drown out of possible hearing the accursed name of the genocidal conspirator Haman.  Our sources teach that we must "smother" the name of the Evildoer with shouts of "Arur Haman" *, (literally, "Damn Haman!"), to deny even a single moment of presence in the living world to one who planned to visit such evil upon of our ancestors. Through this proscription, Haman, who desired the annihilation of our People for political ends, becomes the personification and symbol of evil; irrationality, hatred and extreme cruelty.  "Damn Haman!" is equivalent to "Damn Evil!" or "Damn hatred, violence, the madness of murdering!"

 

But, isn't all this self-evident?  Is it not redundant to curse evil, to repudiate the despicable and reject the unbearable?  There is a beautiful Hasidic parable in order to answer these apparently simple questions:

 

In a town where violence and abuse had become
the norms of behavior, one man began to preach against the daily social degradation he saw, spending hour upon hour in the park calling the townsfolk to repent, to change, to return to the path God expects from us.  Most ignored him, some insulted him; others struck him, but nothing deterred this man from his struggle against the ruin of his society.  Asked why he persisted when virtually none had heeded him, still less changed their ways, he answered
"I do this not for them, but for myself.  My greatest fear is that I should turn out to be another of the violent ones, the vile ones.  I shout, shout and denounce to avoid becoming like them".

 

So too, we loudly "Damn Haman!" for a double reason:

  • to restore our own sensitivity to the suffering of others, to exalt sanity over wickedness; we "Damn Haman!" to remind ourselves that evil is not a permanent or necessarypresence in the world, but avoidable in ourselves and in all human coexistence;
  • to remind ourselves of our own responsibility to oppose, denounce and punish brutality, injustice, abuse, hatred, wickedness; we are part of this world to complete the Divine work, to make it more just and merciful, better for ourselves, our brethren and for all humanity.

The gematria (the numerical equivalent value of the Hebrew letters) of "Arur Haman", "cursed Haman", and "Baruch Mordechai", "blessed Mordechai", is exactly equal: both total precisely 502.  This perhaps points out to the fact that it takes an equal amount of energy to do evil than the energy required to prevent it, bringing then goodness to humankind.

 

Purim comes to remind us of the duty to ourselves and others of preserving truth, goodness, mercy and justice in a world that so often seems to empty those ideas of actionable meaning.  It comes to remind us that as long as evil is present in the world, the possibility of murderous catastrophes like that which the evildoer plotted against our ancestors may be repeated.

 

In this Purim may our hearts be filled with joy and happiness as we listen to the story of our salvation in the old Persian, always remembering our responsibility to denounce and persecute evil and to spread justice and loving kindness in the world.

  

With best wishes,

Chag Purim Sameach!

 

Chazak ve'ematz!

 

Rabbi Carlos A. Tapiero

Deputy Director-General & Director of Education

Maccabi World Union

carlos@maccabi.org

 

 
 
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