Purim 5782, March 2022
A day to celebrate
Purim is a day of unbridled celebration. To mark this year’s Purim – which begins this evening – I have put together a special collection of essays that I have written over the years. Together they present a multi-faceted exploration of what we celebrate on Purim and why. You can read the compendium below.
I hope you enjoy reading it as you prepare for this powerful day, and that these ideas elevate your Purim experience.
Wishing you a joyous Purim,
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
On Purim, we celebrate the defeat of cynicism and mockery. And we embrace – full-heartedly, uproariously – holiness and meaning, commitment and purpose, direction and destiny – and the holy Torah that gives us all of these things.
Satire, the use of humour to ridicule and expose errant human behaviour, is a powerful art form.
When used positively, humour can deflate something which is truly unimportant and trivial, and can create positive change in society. But humour has a harmful edge, too. It can, in fact, deflate the importance of anything. It can undermine the importance of sacred things. Marriage, for example. Or faith. Or even self-esteem. Humour, deployed to destructive ends, can erode our entire sense of self.
The very first verse of the Book of Psalms says, “Fortunate is the person who …has not sat in a gathering of scoffers.” Scoffing and mocking are driven by a cynical outlook on life. This touches on one of the crucial steps to achieving spiritual and moral growth as laid out by the great 18th century Italian Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his classic work on ethics, The Mesillat Yesharim (Path of the Just). In the book, the Ramchal, as he is known, sets down a path for personal growth, structured like the ascending rungs of a ladder. The bottom of the ladder – the starting point for personal growth – is Torah learning. Torah learning then leads to the second rung – which is what he terms Zehirut. Zehirut means living with a heightened awareness of right and wrong, with a clarity of focus and purpose.
The Ramchal says one of the most powerful countervailing forces against this heightened awareness is scoffing and mockery. He says they bring about a state of “spiritual drunkenness”, in which a person becomes detached from that which is truly important and holy. He compares it to a shield which has been covered with oil. When arrows are fired at the shield they are easily deflected to the ground. So too, says the Ramchal, when we are confronted by the arrows of truth – the ideas and ideals and cornerstone values that can truly pierce our heart and transform us for the better – mockery and scoffing can deflect these arrows, undermining our earnest struggle for meaning in life. The force of cynicism erodes the very things that anchor our lives, setting us adrift in a sea of existential uncertainty in which nothing is permanent or solid or sacred.
We are what we value. The Book of Proverbs (27:21) says, “A person according to their praise”. Rabbeinu Yona interprets this to mean that you can understand a person and know who they are by whom and what they admire. Rav Yitzchak Hutner takes this idea to its logical conclusion, arguing that for radical cynics – those who look at life coldly and ascribe value to nothing – life is empty. Rav Hunter says that this insight about the nature of cynicism is, in fact, the gateway to understanding the essential ideological struggle that plays out on Purim.
On Purim, we read the Book of Esther, which sets out the events surrounding Haman’s genocidal plan for the Jewish people, and how it was thwarted through the efforts of Mordechai and Esther, and through the “hidden Hand” of G-d. Of course, much like the Torah itself, the Book of Esther is not simply an historical record; it is in fact pregnant with meaning and spiritual instruction.
As we know, Haman, one of the key protagonists of the Megillah, came from the nation of Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish people. Rav Hutner cites the midrash which compares Amalek to the scoffer and the cynic, and that the Amalekite worldview is crucial to understanding the mechanics of the Purim story.
We see Amalek’s essential cynical nature in their first attack on the Jewish people as we left Egypt. The verse “asher karcha baderech” describes how Amalek “chanced upon you on the way” (Devarim, 25:17) – precisely capturing the cynical Amalekite worldview that everything happens by chance, that nothing has essential meaning or significance.
This worldview is reflected in another interpretation of the Hebrew word karcha. Rashi says it relates not just to happenstance but to cold indifference (karcha originates from the root kor, meaning “coldness”). What was the coldness? Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says that when the Jewish people emerged from Egypt, a nation of slaves victorious over their superpower oppressors, amidst a swirl of supernatural “signs and wonders”, no one dared stand in their way. There was an aura of invincibility about them.
Until Amalek. Amalek launched one of the first recorded terrorist attacks in history, attacking the stragglers of the Jewish people, the weaker, more vulnerable members of the nation who lagged behind – and indeed, they landed a telling blow. In doing so, Amalek broke the aura around the Jewish people, they “cooled the waters” for other nations to follow their example.
What gave Amalek the confidence to attack the Jews when no one else did? It was their cynicism, their cold, nihilistic perspective on life. Of course, they had heard of the plagues and all the other miracles, but they simply rejected their obvious significance. The Amalek outlook is that life is meaningless, that nothing has purpose, that things – even obviously supernatural things – “just happen”.
We see this philosophy of randomness in operation centuries later, when Haman, a direct descendant of these anarchic desert warriors, opts to cast random lots to choose a date for destroying the Jewish people, instead of methodical planning and actively choosing an appropriate date. Indeed, the word “Purim” itself, which means “lots”, refers to this force of randomness and meaninglessness that the Jewish people of the time were up against.
The Amalekite worldview stands in direct contrast to the Torah worldview. Torah is rooted in the idea of purpose and Divine Providence. G-d created a world that is perfect by design; it didn’t just happen. Each one of us is in this world because G-d wants us to be here. He has given each of us a mission to fulfill, and therefore what we do is inherently meaningful and important. Even the smallest undertaking, the most perfunctory task, has significance in G-d’s eyes. Nothing is random. Meaning is everywhere. All of life is sacred.
Kedusha is one of the Torah’s core concepts. Generally translated as “holiness”, Kedusha entails designating something for a specific purpose, making something special. The centrepiece of the Jewish marriage ceremony is called kiddushin, from the word kedusha, and signifies the activation of a sacred relationship – that this man and this woman have designated one another as their spouse, to the exclusion of all others. The concept of kedusha conveys to us that there is something special in this world, and thus that the world is the very opposite of random.
Random evolution as a theory posits that the development of life is chaotic and directionless, a result of random mutations. It presents a picture of a world that excludes G-d, and claims that the awesome magnificence we see all around us, in all of its perfection, in all of its balance and beauty, “just happened”. If this dismal view were true – if life came about just by chance, and we are all here because of some big accident – then life, and the lives we lead, are indeed meaningless and inconsequential. That is the ultimate cynicism.
The Torah, by contrast, tells us that the world we live in is not a random accumulation of molecules that came about in an ad hoc and haphazard way. It tells us that there is structure and intentionality to reality, that an all-knowing, all-loving Creator created everything with purpose. That there is a grand design to the world and grand meaning to our existence.
God created each of us with a purpose. He created us for the purpose of doing good, doing mitzvot, making the world a better place. Living in accordance with our higher calling means living a life that is ethical and upright, a life filled with compassion and kindness, a G-dly life in which everything we do – even the most mundane undertaking – is infused with sanctity and significance. This is the life circumscribed by the Torah.
And this is what we celebrate with such uninhibited joy on Purim. We celebrate inspiration itself. We celebrate the triumph of excitement over cynicism, passion over apathy. We celebrate the defeat of nihilism and mockery and we embrace, full-heartedly, uproariously, holiness and meaning, commitment and purpose, direction and destiny – and the holy Torah that gives us all of these things.
Ultimately, there is nothing more joyful than reaffirming the fact that life – and what we choose to do with it – matters.
Life is meaningful. The choices we make matter. But on a macro level, as we see from the Megillah, Hashem is in control of our world. And though His hand is hidden, his fingerprints are everywhere.
When we read the Megillah on Purim, one of the key messages is how Hashem’s hand guided the events that took place. Haman tried to perpetrate genocide on the Jewish people, and set out an extraordinarily elaborate plan for doing so. He was influential with the king and managed to get the king’s approval in issuing a genocidal decree. But, miraculously, that decree was then undone through the intervention of Mordechai and Esther.
But, what is not stated throughout the Megillah, though it’s there all the time, is Hashem’s presence in guiding events. God’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah, yet His hand is felt throughout this series of events – beginning with the removal of Vashti as Achashverosh’s queen right at the beginning of the Megillah, to be replaced by Esther. Esther was already positioned as queen before the decree of Haman was issued to the kingdom, so she was able to intervene and save the Jewish people, turning Haman’s plan on its head.
One of the messages of the Megillah is that we need to see the hidden hand of Hashem. There are revealed miracles and there are concealed miracles. Purim is all about the hidden miracles of G-d; how He guides history and shapes world events, and nothing happens by pure coincidence. Everything has design. Everything has purpose. Everything is part of Hashem’s plan for the world.
The Gemara tells us that the name ‘Esther’, like all the main protagonists of the Purim story, is hinted to in the Torah. Where? In the verse, ‘And on that day, I will hide My face.’” The word ‘Esther’ means hidden – a reference to Hashem’s hidden way of relating to His creations. Though God hides himself in this world, His presence is felt everywhere. And while his name is obscured throughout the Megillah, His influence is everywhere, orchestrating events from behind the curtain.
This is also expressed in another interesting way: on Purim, we do not say Hallel. The Gemara debates the reason for this. Hallel comprises the great prayers of thanksgiving and praise we dedicate to our Creator, which we recite on Chanukah and other Yom Tovim. On these occasions, we express our gratitude to God for everything He has done for us and for all His great miracles. Why, then, do we omit Hallel on Purim?
The Gemara answers that the Megillah is its own form of Hallel. But a debate arises among the great rabbinic authorities – what happens if you don’t have access to a Megillah on Purim morning, or you aren’t able to hear the Megillah read? Should you say Hallel instead? Surely if the Megillah stands in for Hallel, if you don’t hear the Megillah, you should say Hallel?
This is, in fact, the opinion of the Meiri – that if you don’t have a Megillah, you must say Hallel. But the vast majority of rabbinic authorities hold – and we follow this ruling– that you do not say Hallel, even if you do not have a Megillah. Rav Yitzchak Hutner explains this is because the Megillah is a fundamentally different form of Hallel. For revealed miracles, we say a revealed Hallel; for a hidden miracle like Purim, we say a hidden Hallel. It’s considered inappropriate to say Hallel for a hidden miracle and, therefore, we refrain from doing so.
Thus, the message of the Megillah is reiterated – Hashem is in control of our world, and we need to trust Him. He has a plan and nothing happens by accident. He is ever-present, guiding human history, guiding our lives, His hand hidden, his fingerprints everywhere.
A remarkable – and chilling – example of Hashem’s hidden hand in history.
Something unexpected happened at the execution of Julius Streicher, one of the high-ranking Nazis sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials. Moments before Streicher was hanged in the early hours of October 16th 1946, Newsweek reported: “He stared at the witnesses facing the gallows and shouted ‘Purimfest, 1946!’”
What did Streicher mean by this? Why would a condemned Nazi mention Purim in his last words? Streicher was obviously familiar with Megillat Esther, which tells of the attempted genocide Haman planned, and how, after his plans were thwarted, Haman and his ten sons were hanged. Streicher was acutely aware of the irony of history – that he was one of ten Nazis hanged after being sentenced at the Nuremberg Trials. (In fact, eleven had been sentenced to death but Goering committed suicide before his sentence was carried out.) And so in the end ten were hanged, just like Haman’s ten sons in the Book of Esther. Amazingly, Streicher saw the historic link between the Nazi genocide and the attempted genocide of Haman – who, like the Nazis, intended to wipe out every Jew – man, woman and child.
But there is an even deeper irony, which Streicher was certainly not aware of. Megillat Esther lists the names of Haman’s ten sons and according to the Halachah, three of the letters in these names are written in smaller font than the rest of the text – a tav, a shin and a zayin – and one letter is written in larger font – a vav. What do these unusually sized letters signify?
For generations different explanations have been offered. In the 20th century, however, another amazing meaning was discovered. The large vav is numerically 6, corresponding to the sixth millennium; the small tav, shin and zayin are numerically 707; together, these numbers refers to the 707th year of the sixth millennium – in other words, the Jewish year 5707, which corresponds to 1946, the year in which these ten high-ranking Nazis were hanged.
Thus, the unusually sized letters – vav, tav, shin and zayin – found in the names of Haman’s ten sons, allude to the year of the execution of these ten Nazi war criminals. What is also fascinating is that they were sentenced on the 1st of October, in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur of 1946, and hanged on the 16th of October, which that year came out on Hoshana Rabbah – which, according to the Zohar, is the day that judgment of the world is finalised.
Since the Torah is God’s wisdom for all times, there are often things which cannot be properly understood until generations later. The differences in the font size of the letters in the list of Haman’s ten sons was not completely understood in previous generations. There were other explanations for it, but only in October 1946 did the full meaning become clear as ten Nazis were hanged in the Jewish year 5707, tav shin zayin.
What does it all mean? What are we meant to do with this?
The answer comes from one of the great heroines of Jewish history, Queen Esther. At risk to her life, with bravery, conviction and loyalty, she intervened to save her people. Through her bold and dramatic life, Queen Esther showed us that Hashem’s presence permeates our history. She understood that her fate and destiny – and that of her people – were in God’s hands.
Esther taught us that sometimes God interacts with the world through open miracles as we experienced with the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea during the Exodus from Egypt. But mostly He does so in a hidden way, as happened during the time of Purim, when the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people was just as great as the open miracles, and yet occurred in a way that was hidden from view and seemingly “natural.”
As we have mentioned, God’s name is not mentioned throughout the Book of Esther, even as His presence is everywhere. Through our celebrations on Purim, we attribute all of the miracles – of that time, and of our time – to God’s direct intervention in history, albeit hidden behind the machinations of politics and world affairs.
Queen Esther’s message is that we must not relate to these events in natural terms alone; we need to see God’s presence in everything. Esther’s message applies to us as individuals in our day-to-day lives. And it also applies to Jewish destiny and world history at large, which powerfully demonstrate God’s involvement in the affairs of people and the fate of civilizations. The supernatural miracles of the establishment of the State of Israel and the rebirth of Torah learning throughout the world following the devastation of the Holocaust are but two examples showing God’s presence in history.
And still today, we can discern God’s presence and involvement. Julius Streicher, as he was being executed, saw with clarity the connection between the Nazi genocide and the attempted genocide planned by Haman. And now the very country in which Haman lived and the events of the Book of Esther took place – Persia – is the same country that today proclaims genocidal aims against the Jewish people. I am, of course, referring to Iran which continues to pursue a diabolical plan to develop nuclear weapons with which to carry out these genocidal intentions. It is an ironic twist of history so eerie and uncanny as to point clearly to God’s presence.
Our response to this latest declaration of intent to commit genocide coming from modern-day Persia must be in the spirit of our great leader and prophetess, Queen Esther. Let us follow her example. Esther pursued not only a practical plan of action that was well executed politically and strategically, but also a spiritual plan, instructing Mordechai to gather the people to repent, pray and fast.
She perceived God’s presence in political events, and so should we.
Purim: A Formula for Coping with Uncertainty
We live in a world filled with uncertainty. Fortunately, the four mitzvot we engage with on Purim offer us a formula for coping with this reality.
God is ever-present in our world and in our lives. And yet we live with so much uncertainty. Political uncertainty, economic uncertainty, social upheaval. Even as we emerge from a two-year global pandemic, there is the sense that we don’t quite know what tomorrow will bring.
Purim is all about coping with uncertainty. In fact, the very word Purim means “lots” – referring to the lots Haman cast to select the day to carry out his genocidal plan against the Jewish people.
Sometimes, the world appears random and indifferent, like a lottery. Purim teaches us that though God may appear absent from the world, in reality, He is orchestrating everything. That even when life seems chaotic and uncertain, it is part of a plan devised by an all-loving Creator who always has our best interests at heart.
In an uncertain world, Purim gives us hope and faith and clarity. In fact, the four mitzvot of Purim constitute the perfect formula for coping with uncertainty. They uplift us and give us the emotional and spiritual resources we need to deal with life’s great unknowns and unknowables.
I believe that to cope in times of uncertainty, we need four things – faith in God; compassion and kindness towards those in need; supportive, loving relationships; and a sense of gratitude and appreciation for all of our many blessings. Each mitzvah of Purim speaks to one of these coping mechanisms.
Firstly, faith. On Purim there is the mitzvah to hear the Megillah read – at night and in the morning. The Megillah is all about faith in God – seeing Hashem’s presence everywhere, even when it is not obvious.
In fact, according to the Talmud, the name Esther, the chief protagonist, is derived from the word hester, meaning hidden – a hint to God’s hidden presence in the world. Famously, the Megillah, which relates the miraculous story of how the Jewish people were saved from annihilation, does not mention Hashem’s name once – yet His presence, His “Guiding Hand”, is felt throughout the story.
Just as God was with our ancestors in ancient Persia, we too, have faith that God is with us in times of uncertainty. We need to feel an awareness of Hashem’s presence in our lives, and in the world at large. This deep faith in Hashem isn’t a belief that things will turn out the way we want them to; it is the comfort we take in knowing we are in His loving embrace, and that everything, ultimately, is for the best.
Another mitzvah of the day is matanot l’evyonim, giving money to those in need – which relates, of course, to kindness. We need to reach out with compassion and generosity, to needy individuals and welfare institutions, providing help and support wherever we can.
Then there’s mishloach manot – sending gifts to our friends and family. This is about nurturing our relationships. We need our relationships more than ever – to be able to rely on each other, to lean on one another. Our relationships feed us, giving us the strength and emotional wellbeing to withstand uncertain times. Mishloach manot can fortify our connections to the people around us, strengthening our support network.
Finally, there is the seudat Purim, the celebratory meal of Purim. The Purim seudah is, in many ways, a seudat hodaah, a “feast of gratitude” – for our miraculous deliverance on Purim, but also for the daily miracles we all experience. This year, as we emerge from the pandemic, we have a chance to really reflect on all the blessings we have in our lives, all the many wonderful things we can be grateful for.
The seudah is an opportunity to sit back and bask in the blessings Hashem has showered upon us; to focus not on what we’ve lost and what we are missing, but on what we have. This, indeed, is the secret to joy – as the mishna in Pirkei Avot puts it: Who is rich? He who is b’sameach b’chelko – “joyous in his lot”. We find the greatest joy simply in looking around us and appreciating all that we have.
And so, as the world begins to move on from this pandemic, we have an opportunity to embrace Purim in a new way, throwing ourselves with renewed energy into the four mitzvot of the day – which together, provide a panacea for living in a world of uncertainty.
Fate versus Destiny
Esther is someone who recognised her Divine calling and changed the world. Her life – and her outlook on life – is an example to us all.
There’s one all-important message of Purim staring us in the face. But most of us overlook it for a simple reason: we know the Purim story too well. We all know the happy ending.
Try to imagine you’ve never read the Book of Esther before. You find a tattered copy, and start reading. You learn about Achashverosh, and about Haman’s evil plan, and then, the text comes to an abrupt stop. The rest of the story is missing. You have no idea what happens next, or even for how long the story continues.
If you think about it, in a way, we’re in the same place of limbo. We are all part of a remarkable drama — the story of humanity and of the Jewish People’s special role. We know how the story runs to this point, until today, and we have an acute sense of the pain and suffering of Jewish history and world history as a whole. But we can’t see the next page.
What Purim gives us is a unique one-time glimpse into the workings of God through events that appear, at first glance, to be random and chaotic. It’s not a story of big open miracles like splitting seas, which are hard for us to imagine, but of God’s hand in human history, which is hidden but leaves fingerprints everywhere.
I feel that the Purim story is screaming out to us, today, with a message that even in these tumultuous times, God is present, guiding the arc of history. Normally, this effect is hidden, but in the Megillah we are given a glimpse behind-the-scenes.
There’s a profound lesson here. At times when things seem so difficult, the Purim story urges us to take a wider view, and to remember it feels like this because we are only part-way through the story.
I have no idea of God’s plan, or how something as distressing as this pandemic we’re only now emerging from may fit into it. But what I do know is that faced with the question of how I process our reality, God wants me to embrace it as a person of “destiny” rather than a person of “fate.”
The person ruled by “fate” wants to know why bad things happen, and feels helpless to change their situation or the circumstances of those around them. After all, “it’s fate” – it’s meant to be. By contrast, the person who thinks in terms of “destiny” focuses on the best way of reacting to circumstances and doing good in the eyes of man and God.
The great 20th century sage, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, most powerfully emphasised this distinction, stating that Judaism sets us the challenge of escaping the “fate” mindset. “Man’s task in the world, according to Judaism, is to transform fate into destiny,” he wrote.
Haman believed in fate. He chose the date for the Jewish People’s destruction by casting lots (in Hebrew ‘purim’), the ultimate act of deferring to the forces of fate. Our heroine Esther, on the other hand, embraced destiny in a historic and definitive way.
When Mordechai told her of the dangers facing the Jewish People, he suggested that she had “come to [her] royal position precisely for a time like this,” and she immediately rose to the occasion. She knew exactly what she needed to do, and had faith that, with God’s help, her efforts would be successful. She sprung into action, risked her life, and saved the Jewish people.
Living in the midst of chaos, and without knowing how her story would pan out, Esther embraced her destiny. Today, each and every one of us has a calling, and Esther’s example urges us to embrace it – and place what Rabbi Soloveitchik called our “own individual seal” upon life. It reminds us that while there is much we don’t control, and we live with uncertainty, we do control our actions. And that counts for everything.
By embracing destiny over fate, and remembering that we’re only part way through a very long story which God is guiding, just as He did in Esther’s day, Purim can give us the boost we need to face all of our challenges.
Our Date with Destiny
God put us here for one reason: to fulfill our personal destiny.
There are some moments that change everything. Picture the scene: every single Jew – man, woman and child – faces mass extermination. I am referring not to Nazi Germany in 1939, but to the genocide planned nearly 2500 years earlier, in ancient Persia.
The Persian Empire extended across the entire known world and every single Jew was under the control of the emperor, King Achashverosh. A decree had been issued for the extermination of every Jew. This was the only time in Jewish history where there was not a single Jew who was not in danger.
Even in the dark depths of the Holocaust, there were still Jews in America, Israel, South Africa, South America, Australia, and elsewhere, who were not in harm’s way. But at the time of the events chronicled in the Book of Esther, every single Jew faced extermination. There seemed no way out – except for one remarkable thing: there was a Jewish queen, Esther, who was married to King Achashverosh. She could intervene to save her people.
Mordechai, one of the great Jewish leaders of that time, sends Esther a message to speak with the king and try to reverse the decree. Esther sends a message back to Mordechai saying she cannot intervene because no one can approach the king without an invitation; anyone who comes to the king of his own volition is under penalty of death. Mordechai sends back a message with these immortal words: “…who knows if it was not for this moment that you have become queen?” When Esther hears these words she accedes to Mordechai’s plan to approach the king. She tells him to gather all the Jews to pray for her, and she will do her part to reverse the decree.
Esther goes to the king and through Divine intervention her life is spared. Then, through a miraculous sequence of events, the decree is reversed – and we celebrate that great victory and salvation of the Jewish people on Purim every year.
These words, “who knows if for this moment you have become queen,” are what changed Esther’s mind. They constitute the message of Purim and one of the central pillars of Jewish philosophy – that nothing happens by accident. Everything is part of God’s plan; everything and everyone has a purpose. Every soul that enters this world has a God-given mission and all of the circumstances we contend with factor into that Divine mission.
Sometimes our Divine mission is dramatic and historic. Sometimes – more often than not – our Divine mission can be found in the small, every-day events of our lives; in the seemingly insignificant things we do and choices we make, which, in God’s eyes, have cosmic meaning.
Let us be clear, God put us here for one reason: to fulfill our personal destiny. That is the message of Purim, and of Judaism in general: to live with purpose, and with a sense of our Divine mission, knowing that everything we think, say and do – every moment of our lives – has deep significance.
The Joy of Celebration
On Purim we immerse ourselves in that renewed joy and inspiration – countering coldness with warmth, and lighting up the dark.
As we have seen, the verse asher karcha baderech refers to how, by attacking the Jewish people, Amalek “cooled things down” – they diminished the heat around the Jewish people.
And on Purim, the joy and exuberance we feel counters the coldness of Amalek. On Purim, we heat things up again. Rav Hutner explains that the joy on Purim knows no bounds because we are actually celebrating joy itself. We celebrate our passion and excitement for the Torah Hashem has given us and the values we live by. We celebrate the fact that life is meaningful, that what we do matters. Cynicism and apathy have no place on Purim. Indifference is nowhere to be found. This is a day of warmth and passion – the ultimate repudiation of Amalek.
At the conclusion of every Shabbos, we recite Havdalah – the prayer that celebrates the concept of holiness or specialness. Through Havdalah, we affirm that time is special, people are special, things are special. We acknowledge that G-d has invested this world with significance.
Perhaps this is why, in Havdalah, we include that verse from the Megillah: laYehudim hayta ora vesimcha vesasson viy’kar, “To the Jews there was light and joy and celebration and glory.” When we say Havdalah and celebrate holiness, we remember the great victory of holiness over desecration; light over darkness; joy over apathy. We celebrate Y’ka, the “glory” of existence, and repudiate the belief that life is arbitrary, empty and meaningless and can be taken away at will.
As we ready ourselves for Purim, let us prepare to celebrate the values we hold dear. Let us proclaim to the world the importance of holiness and the values for which we have fought for generations. Let us rejoice in the sanctity of human existence, embracing warmth and passion, and shunning coldness and indifference.
May this be a Purim of light and joy and celebration and glory for us all!