Rabbi Lief’s Message March 2017

Purim is coming and with it fun and revelry, graggers and hamentaschen, carnivals and costumes. As we dress up as our favorite Purim characters, we allow ourselves the freedom to be silly, daring, crazy, and even risqué. After all, it’s Purim: a joyous time of celebration at our salvation from potential annihilation, for which some sages suggest we should be so taken in by the party as to forget ourselves and our troubles, be they the past troubles of Mordecai and Esther, or the troubles of our modern daily lives. As whom will you dress up this year? As whom will you dress your children? Mordecai and Ahasueras, Esther and Vashti, Bigthan, and Teresh, Haman and Zeresh; all provide an opportunity to be someone we’re not: heroes or villains, kings and queens, dressed up and acting the part. 

Would that it were only on Purim when we put on a costume. How many of us wear a costume each and every day? How many of us hide part of who we are in order to color another person’s perception of ourselves? How many of us refrain from speaking out against injustice for fear of causing trouble? How many of us downplay our commitment to an important cause in order to fit in to a larger crowd? How many of us go along to get along, going and going and going until we’ve lost sight of where we began, and unsure of whom we’ve become? As Jews, we are obligated to be true to ourselves and to our God. Each of us is made in the Divine Image, regardless of political party, race, religion, age, or orientation, and each of us should be proud of who we are. Loving our neighbors as ourselves demands that we love ourselves as well.

Is the you who you portray each day who you really are? Are you honest with yourself and those around you about your needs, wants, hopes, and dreams? Can you define for yourself who you are and whom you hope to be? Are you on your way to becoming that person? If so, congratulations on an impressive accomplishment. If not, don’t wait until Yom Kippur to take time for reflection and change.

At Purim we celebrate deliverance from destruction and celebrate the joy of life. Joy shouldn’t be reserved for a party, or require a disguise for its actualization. Celebrate the joy of living, the joy of making a difference in the lives of others, the joy of transforming the world by your very presence in it each and every day. This Purim, don’t just send gifts of food to your friends; give yourself, and those you love, the gift of self-worth. Then, and only then, will the triumph of Esther be fulfilled: when we need not hide who we are on the inside, when we can speak up and speak out, when we can live in freedom and in peace, and can share such joy with others. Becca, Leah, Ellie, and I wish you and your family a happy and joyous Purim, and happiness and joy on all other days as well.