Search
Close this search box.

The Essence of a Nation, the Essence of a Holiday

Bs”d Purim 5782

The Essence of a Nation, the Essence of a Holiday

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

In the peak of the drama in the story of Megillat Esther, Mordechai says to Queen Esther, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father’s household will perish.” At this most difficult moment, with the world shamed in the face of the decree given by Achashverosh and Haman “to destroy, kill, and cause to perish all the Jews,” Mordechai presents two profound and incisive truths, not only to Esther and her generation, but to all the generations to follow.

The first truth offered by Mordechai is that relief and rescue will arise for the Jews, from here or from elsewhere.  Whatever happens, there will always be those from within the Jewish nation who rise to the occasion and act on behalf of their brothers and sisters in distress.  We are taught this by Mordechai, and we are taught this by history.

The second truth is that whoever chooses to remain silent, whoever stands by while his nation is in trouble, can be lost to Judaism. Because – what is Judaism, at its root and essence, if not the story of Moses who left the pleasantries of Pharaoh’s palace where he grew up “and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens?” What is Judaism if not that sense of mutual responsibility in whose name Jews devoted their lives, gave their funds, and even sacrificed their lives for others? Surrendering this precious trait and choosing to stand by when brothers and sisters are in distress is like leaving the fold. We are taught this by Mordechai, and we are taught this by history.

In the face of Haman’s slanderous words, “There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples,” Esther commands, “Go, assemble all the Jews.” Separation is our tragedy.  Unity is the source of our strength. It is no coincidence that Mordechai and Esther command us to celebrate Purim with an act that expresses solidarity and friendship – mishloach manot, and matanot la’evyonim – sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.  We do not celebrate our redemption from the enemy with fancy parties, but by strengthening friendship, community, and concern for the weak among us. That is also why Mordechai and Esther command us to celebrate Purim both on the date when the Jews of Shushan were saved as well as when the Jews of the rest of the kingdom were saved. Each community rejoices in the joy of the other. That is the essence of this holiday.  That is the essence of this nation.

During these bitter days of war and strife, we are moved by the tremendous acts of Jews on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Ukraine. The people of Chabad help many refugees, people with means who are funding hundreds of buses for those escaping Ukraine, private individuals who courageously enter the war zone to rescue their brothers and sisters from the valley of death… All these are the sons and daughters of Mordechai.  All these are continuing the path of Queen Esther. Ashrei ha’am shekacha lo. Fortunate is the nation for whom this is so.