February 26, 2021
Happy Purim. Happy feast of lots (as in “lottery”). Happy celebration of a story that was hotly debated by our sages as to whether it should even be included in the TaNaKh (the collection of holy Jewish books that make up our religious canon).
But why was the Megillah on the rabbis’ chopping block? Simple, because the Book of Esther does not mention Gd by name anywhere in the story. Some scholars assign the phrase “…relief and deliverance [will] arise to the Jews from another place” (4:14), suggesting that the “other place” is a reference to the Almighty. Yet, even with this obscure potential reference, the story contains no supernatural miracles; it instead highlights the power of human capacity and survival over Divine intervention and makes only an allusive reference to prayer or religious observance. Now hold this thought for a moment…
…and consider this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh. Did you know that this is the only parashah in the Book of Exodus that does not mention Moses by name? In fact, besides Genesis, the first book of the Torah, which is the story of the world before Moses, and Deuteronomy, which is the final fifth book of the Torah that documents the second telling of the Exodus in Moses’ own voice, even the third and fourth books, Leviticus and Numbers respectively, mention Moses at least once in every single Torah portion.
So, what can we learn from the absence of someone or something, rather than its presence?
This week, over 4,000,000 Texans realized just how easy it is to take something for granted. Something as routine as electricity, heat, and water! We live in the most advanced society in the world, during the most advanced time in history, and yet, not until we noticed their absence, did we truly appreciate their value.
The story of Purim highlights the power of our ability to come together, even in the face of complete annihilation and destruction in order to conquer evil. Parashah Tetzaveh highlights that even when our greatest leader, the one who has brought us out of centuries of slavery and who is the link between Israel and Gd is absent, it is up to others, like Aaron and his sons to step up to maintain the order. So too, did Texas “survive” our struggle through the humanity of our neighbors.
This wasn’t a time for supernatural miracles, this was a time for being reminded that we should never take, not even the most basic supplies, for granted, and that when they are absent, we must lean on one another to get through.
Not only did neighbors open their doors for each other, and not only did they share resources with one another, but many friends and families across the globe reached out to do whatever they could too. The Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) accessed its national network to help secure emergency funds for our Texas communities, and the Buffalo Jewish Federation specifically, embracing its “Good Neighbor” moniker, rolled out a crisis campaign to help. Even our Partnership 2Gether (P2G) colleagues in Israel sent emergency funds to help those in need.
The Jewish Federation of San Antonio is here for our community because that is what we do. We are here every day fulfilling our mission to convene our community, plan for our community, and to secure resources for our community. We are…
HERE for you.
HERE for our Community.
HERE for our future.
Wishing everyone a festive Purim holiday and restful Shabbat shalom.