February 26, 2021
CHAG SAMEACH! and HAPPY PURIM!
It is hard to believe that we have been living with the pandemic for a full year. The Coronavirus first hit our community days before last Purim. Twelve months later, our lives have been transformed in every conceivable way by this invisible threat. Yet now at last we can begin to glimpse the coming end of the pandemic thanks to new Covid vaccines.
It is appropriate that the beginning of this pandemic and the beginning of its end are both framed by the festival of Purim. The name of the holiday means “lots.” Haman (boo!) draws lots to determine which on which date his decree will order the Persians to massacre the Jews. Lots depend purely on chance. So, too, almost every significant turning point in the story of Esther occurs by happenstance. One lesson of the Book of Esther is that our lives are often turned upside down in ways we cannot expect.
One thing, however, is not a matter of luck. We get to choose how we respond to the events in our lives. When Esther is hesitant to go to the King, her uncle Mordecai tells her: “Who knows whether it is for a moment just like this that you arose to power?” When we face challenges, we can respond in one of two ways. We can respond with compassion, courage, and wisdom, seeking the welfare of all, or we can abdicate responsibility, allowing the chance nature of the moment to serve as our rationalization for inaction. Esther rises to the moment and because she does, our people were saved.
So too it is for us. We are all fatigued by a year of Covid precautions. We are worn down and feel like we are no longer in control of our lives. But we are in control. We get to choose how we respond. I am proud of our congregation for its choices. Over the past year we have responded to the pandemic with grace, compassion, faith and courage. We have reached out to each other and collectively we have reached upward towards God. The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on us. But we will come through this experience stronger, wiser and more connected than ever before.
At the end of the Purim story, we read that the Jews went “from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to a good day.” So may it be for us, that we see an end to this pandemic once and for all, and that our days are filled once again with “light, joy and all that is precious.” Also from Esther, “The Jews enjoyed light and gladness, happiness and honor. Grant us these same miracles.”