Embracing Action with Faith

March 22, 2024 / 12 Adar II 5784

As we prepare to celebrate Purim this weekend, and we delve into the teachings of this holiday and its emphasis on human action within the framework of Divine wisdom, we see a parallel with this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra. The opening of the Book of Leviticus, Vayikra, presents us with Gd’s “call to Moses” (Vayikra 1:1), detailing the offerings and sacrifices that the Israelites are to bring before Gd. This sacrificial system, with its intricate laws and rituals, serves as a tangible expression of the Israelites’ relationship with the Divine, emphasizing an active engagement in our covenant with Gd.

In both the story of Purim and the observances detailed in Vayikra, we see a dynamic interplay between Divine will and human action. Just as Esther and Mordechai took decisive steps to ensure the survival of the Jewish people, the Israelites in Vayikra are called upon to actively engage in practices that bring them closer to Gd. These actions are not merely symbolic; they are essential expressions of faith, responsibility, and the covenant between Gd and the Jewish people.

The story of Purim highlights themes of courage, identity, and the hidden hand of Gd. Amidst the revelry and joy of the holiday lies a profound teaching about Divine providence and human action. According to our faith and tradition, while we are encouraged to have unwavering faith that Gd will support us in times of need, the imperative to act, to take responsibility for our destiny, is unequivocally placed upon us, or as the noted adage expresses, to win the lottery, you need to first buy a ticket.

And as the Purim story reveals, it is Esther, at Mordechai’s encouragement, who takes action to approach the king on behalf of her people. This pivotal moment reflects a deeper philosophical and spiritual truth emphasized in Abraham Maslow’s famous psychology, “You will either step forward into growth, or you will step back into safety.” Esther’s decision to approach the king, despite the immense personal risk, symbolizes a step forward into growth, a conscious choice to act in the face of uncertainty.

The Purim narrative teaches us that although we might believe in the hidden hand of Gd guiding the events of the world, we are not to passively wait for “help to come from elsewhere” (makom acher) (Book of Esther 4:14). Instead, we are called upon to recognize the moments when our action is critical, when our choices can significantly alter the course of events.

As we reflect on the lessons of Purim, let us embrace the call to action that is incumbent upon each of us. In moments of doubt, when we question our ability to effect change, it is precisely then that we must remember Esther’s courage and Mordechai’s wisdom. Let us step forward into growth, embracing our responsibility to take action, to make a difference in the lives of others and in the unfolding story of our people.  May we be reminded that living a life of faith means embracing both our trust in Gd’s hidden hand and our responsibility to act. In our communities and personal lives, may we find the courage to step forward into growth, recognizing that our actions are pivotal in the unfolding story of our relationship with the Divine. Like Esther and the Israelites, let us not retreat into the comfort of passivity but embrace the challenge and responsibility of making a difference, fulfilling our covenant with Gd through the choices we make and the actions we take.

The holiday of Purim emphasizes our responsibility to reach out to others, especially those who might be in need of emotional, physical, or even spiritual help. This weekend, think about who might benefit from a call or visit from you, and then act on that need. Who knows, maybe your call will be their winning lottery ticket? Because we are…


Shabbat Shalom.