By: Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC
Director of Religious and Spiritual Services
During this past year, as I reflect back on all of the challenges and difficulties we have experienced, I remind myself often about the importance of being grateful. We are challenged to focus on what we have, instead of asking the question, “Is it enough.” All too often, unfortunately, people find the one thing that isn’t perfect and dwell upon it, even to the point of self-destruction. This concept in its extreme is a theme in Haman’s story in the book of Esther. He was the second in command in Shushan – the man who has the king’s ear and seemingly real power – yet because of one man, Mordechai, not showing him deference and respect, Haman sets himself up to fall because of his all or nothing approach.
To illustrate Haman’s mindset, Chapter 5, verses 9-13, describe Haman’s emotional state after being at the first of two parties that Esther holds for him and King Achashverosh (Haman at this point doesn’t suspect this party and the subsequent one he has been invited to are a setup to reveal the extent of his plans).
9 Then went Haman forth that day joyful and glad of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, Haman was filled with wrath against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless Haman refrained himself, and went home; and he sent and fetched his friends and Zeresh his wife. 11 And Haman recounted unto them the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and everything as to how the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. 12 Haman said moreover: ‘Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to-morrow also am I invited by her together with the king. 13 Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.’
Haman shares with his wife and friends how he has everything, power, money and a large family. Yet, he acknowledges that his pride is crushed because one man does not show him the respect he thinks he deserves. Earlier, when Haman first asked Achashverosh to allow him to decree the destruction of the Jewish people, its root cause was due to Mordechai not bowing down to him. In response to the slight of a single person, Haman begins down a path that leads to his own demise.
One of the lessons of the Purim story is to celebrate and appreciate the good, even if the good is not absolute. The Jews of Shushan and throughout the kingdom ultimately survive, with Haman’s decree of annihilation overturned. However, the book of Esther doesn’t end in celebration. It ends with a reminder that the Jews are still subjects under Achashverosh and lives at his whims, which is exemplified by his new taxation. Unlike Haman, who as we saw above only saw what he didn’t have, this notion of survival feeling incomplete did not prevent Purim from becoming a joyous, celebratory day. Purim is about celebrating the good in the moment.
This has been a rough and challenging year. We have had many moments of sadness, trauma and frustration, as well as moments of hope, joy and happiness. As we come to Purim, a day of celebration, my hope is we can find the countless small joys in our lives to help enhance our happiness on this day. May your Purim be one of joy and celebration and may the positive feelings that emerge from Purim inspire us for more days of happiness.