purimIn November we had the first round of Parent / Teacher Conferences. At the end of the second night I walked slowly to my car. It had been two 12 hour days and I was tired and not really focused on anything in particular except to go home. I opened up the rear door of the car, put my book bag on the seat and then got into the front. Something was wrong. The seat was pushed all the way back and my feet didn’t reach the pedals. The inside of the car looked different. Suddenly it hit me - I was in the wrong car!! I discovered that my car was two spaces away on the other side of white van. I got out of the car, grabbed my bag, got into my car and went home.

This weekend we have the merit once again to read Megillat Esther, the episode of the near annihilation of the Jewish people at the hands of a tyrannical madman and the salvation they received from Queen Esther. There are two specific points in Megillat Esther which are particularly poignant to me.

The first comes when Mordecai, through a middle man, requests that Esther go to the king to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people. Esther is reluctant since one who approaches the king without being summoned could be put to death and she hadn’t been summoned in a while. Mordecai’s reply message that she must go ends with a statement that is powerful, “. . . and who knows whether it was just for this occasion that you attained the royal position.” Esther’s task, or at least one of them, was to save the Jewish people from destruction.

The second moment comes towards the end. After the war, after the Jews defeated the Persian army, the narrative of the megillah describes the Jews’ victory and the establishment of Purim as a holiday, that there should be feasting on the 14th of Adar (on the 15th in the capital of Shushan) and that Jews should exchange Mishloach Manot with one another to promote friendship and unity. The text then says that the Jews “established and accepted” to observe these days. The Talmud explains on this verse that Jewish people were accepting on themselves not only these days of a new holiday of Purim, but the entire Torah. This moment was a recommitment to Jewish tradition.

We all have an important role to play in this world, a role that no one else can fulfill. Esther’s role was to save the Jewish people and set in motion other events that would lead to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Our role - whatever it is – is no less crucial than Esther’s. We never know what souls we may save, how our actions may build others. We must remember that our actions, our words are powerful. Yes, we make mistakes, yes, at times we fall short. Jewish tradition has the concept of Teshuva, to repent, to return to get back on track.

Jewish tradition is our guide. The Talmud says that the Jews in Esther’s time made a new commitment to the Torah. The word “Torah” means instruction. It comes from the same root as “shoot.” One shoots straight. Jewish tradition is our instruction guide to help us along our path – so we don’t get into the wrong car in the dark.

May this Purim be a joyous one for everyone.

Shabbat shalom and a Purim Samayach


Rabbi Yaakov Traiger