By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Wilf Campus Chaplain
Purim celebrates the Jewish survival in the city of Shushan as described in the book of Esther. As described towards the book’s conclusion:
20 And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, near and far, 21 commanding that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, 22 the days where the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned to them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor (Esther 9:20-22).
After the overturning Haman’s evil decree to wipe out the Jews, Mordechai established a day of celebration. As part of the celebration, Jews are commanded to extend one’s personal celebration to friends and neighbors and to provide for all to celebrate, even those who are poor. By including these two tasks as mandates of the day as opposed to just “best practice,” Mordechai recognized that in order to truly enjoy and celebrate the day, it is incumbent to connect to others. These two commandments are the true test when it comes to communal unity.
It can be easy during challenging times to become more self-focused. It can be easy to allow the uneasiness of confusing situations to cause us to “quarantine” ourselves. Yet, while there is a time and place for caution and concern, there is also a balance between that and being able to rise above oneself and remain connected to others. By being commanded to give, we are obligated to guarantee that everyone has something to warm their hearts and help raise one’s spirit in celebrating Purim and celebrating life as a whole. These two commands are a lesson in how the best way to face a challenge is by bringing people together.
May each of us be blessed to be able to give and receive the joy and warmth of Purim.