- Temple Beth Shalom
The Messiah Knows Esther
This month we once again celebrate the days of Purim. When I was a young boy growing up in the Reform Movement, it seemed as if the celebration was primarily for children. It was our time to get dressed up in costumes. We got to make all this noise during the service. There was a parade around the sanctuary. And - of course, we got to eat those awesome chocolate and jam filled cookies. Outside the concept of making those hamantaschen and spinning the noisemakers when we hear the name of Haman, perhaps we should ask what is so important about this celebration. The TaNaKh itself seems to present this yearly recollection as a very important time as we find that “These days should be remembered and observed in every generation: by every family, every province, and every city. And - these days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews, and the remembrance of them shall never cease to be observed among their descendants,” (Est 9:28).
In fact, so important is this celebration that the Rambam writes regarding this verse that “All the books from the Book of Prophets and the Books from the Writings (from the TaNaKh) will cease to be recited in public during the messianic era except the Book of Esther. It will continue to be read just as the Five Books of the Torah and the laws of the Oral Torah (rabbinic dictum) will never cease to be read. Ancient troubles will be remembered no longer, as it is written, “The troubles of the past are forgotten and hidden from my eyes,” (Isa 65:16). Yet, the days of Purim will not be abolished, as it is written, “These days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews, and the remembrance of them shall never cease to be observed among their descendants,” (Est 9:28).
It is very worthy to note that the Rambam and the rabbis believe that the Book of Esther will continue to be read given that there is not one mention of the name of God in the entire narrative. Perhaps one reason is that the narrative of Esther provides us the concept that we must advocate for the purpose for which we are chosen. We Jews are the ones who constantly remind the world that righteousness and accountability are of utmost importance as we look to make the world a better place in preparation for the coming of the messiah. Since the time of the Esther, we have been witnesses to so many challenging things that do not lay the baseline of wholeness and goodness for God’s world.
The Book of Esther comes to teach the world, that even though many will choose to ignore the acts God can bring into our lives, it does not mean they do not exist. In specific, God brings Torah to our lives every day. And - We read year after year how Esther uses the doctrine of Torah and rises to the challenge of persuading her king to listen to what is happening in his population. His own advisor seeks to persecute an entire community-oriented part of his followers. Haman’s words of inditement are only that there are a people “whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws.” Sure, the call of our mitzvot is different from almost every other paradigm that exists in a kingdom.
No matter who is the leader in a community, it is our job to make sure that we help present what is right and wrong. We are required to teach and to show each and every leader the pathway to righteousness. This is what the Book of Esther comes to show us. We must act when needed to pursue the right in and for the world. One of the greatest women in our history did it. God did not need to have a heart-to-heart discussion with her. Rather, when called, she knows what she must do. So, this month, let us think what it means to act on behalf of all peoples when needed. Let us not shy away from our duty as Jews. I am sure Esther did not want to have that discussion with her king. Yet, she did! And – when the messiah comes, at least we will understand what he/she will be looking to see – that we understand what God demands from us, “To do Justice and to Love Mercy…” This will be the messiah’s calling card.
With blessings for a meaningful celebration,
Rabbi M Robert Delcau