Purim's universal message of courage

The holiday of Purim is Sunday, celebrating yet another miracle of Jewish survival, the victory of good versus evil, and our unyielding trust in God. While the Purim story takes place more than 1,600 years ago in Persia, its message is relevant now as much as ever, especially following the killings last weekend in Israel.

In Persia, there was a decree to kill all the Jews. It was unknown at the time of the decree that the Persian king's wife, Queen Esther, was Jewish.

Following encouragement from her cousin Mordechai and a three-day fast, she approached the king to bravely reveal her secret and try to save her people.

It was punishable by death to approach the king uninvited — even if you were his wife — but she did it anyway. It is said that she trusted in God, but she still took action. Our sages teach us not to sit back and let miracles happen; we must do our utmost to save and protect lives.

The Jewish people of Persia were saved and have seemingly miraculously survived in every land and every generation since their beginnings 3,500 years ago. We are meant to live as an example of goodness and godliness, even when it's not a popular thing to do.

The Fogel family, like others, had to leave the city where they lived as part of an effort to make peace with Israel's hostile neighbors. They resettled in another area, called Itamar in the West Bank of Israel, living as Jews have lived for thousands of years. They taught their children what it says in the Torah. They kept kosher. Observed the sabbath. Gave charity and prayed.

Friday night, they had their weekly sabbath meal, prayed and sang songs. As the Fogels slept later that night, terrorists who lived nearby climbed through a window of their home and killed five members of their family — including a newborn baby, two young children and the parents. Three other children, who were in the next room, survived.

My family, like Jews in Israel and around the world, also studies the Torah, we keep kosher, give charity, pray and observe Shabbat.

I won't pretend that I can relate to what the Fogel's friends and remaining family members are going through, or that I understand how it feels. But I can say that something within me aches — as a mother, as a Jew, and as a human being who, for the most part, only knows peace.

Something about this particular act really opened my eyes. And I've realized the best thing I can do is increase in mitzvahs (Torah commandments) and acts of goodness, teach my children by example, and continue to have faith.

Jews around the world have come together to show support in various ways. Jewish women here and abroad, even if they've never done it before, will light Shabbat candles Friday at sundown.

On Sunday, we'll celebrate Purim like Jews around the world have done, and continue to do, every year. We'll have costume parties and celebrate. We'll listen to the rabbi read the Megillah (story of Esther), and we'll give away gift baskets filled with treats and gifts to our friends and family. And we'll make an effort to increase in acts of kindness.

Because the best way to fight evil, to fight darkness, is with light — and every little spark makes a difference.

Purim's universal message of courage 03/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 8:54pm]

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