26 March 2011

I read this this morning , it is the lead tidbit in the OU Centers Toarah Tidbits, gave me a good think, I hope you enjoy it, Shavua Tov.

A Fresh Retrospective

Published March 24, 2011

Usually, it is when you are reading these words, rather than when they were written, that is significant. This time, take note that this Lead Tidbit has begun DURING the Purim Seuda, and continues to be written as Purim day turns into the pre-Pesach season. It is being written after most of the world’s Jews have said L’HITRA’OT to Purim 5771 and only we in Jerusalem are still in the Purim mode. Even in Hawaii, where Shabbat lingers about 12 hours beyond our havdala (of course, it also begins about 12 later than in Israel), Purim is more than half a day in the past. But in Yerushalayim, as of this writing, Purim is still clinging to our thoughts and feelings.
Before we look forward to Parshat Para, HaChodesh, the month of Nisan, and Pesach, let’s take a look at a phenomenon of two and a half mellenia ago, that is still – sadly – alive and well in the end of the 58th century (what most of the world calls the 21st).
Haman is elevated to a position of high honor; one of his preqs is that everyone must bow to him. Mordechai does not. This does not immediately catch Haman’s attention. Rather it is the others of the king’s inner circle who notice Mordechai’s not bowing from their prostrate perspective. They ask him repeatedly – daily – why he does not bow in fulfillment of the king’s orders. Megila commentaries suggest various answers he gives them – the common thread of them involves Mordechai’s Jewishness.
That this would irk Haman is understandable. But he doesn’t even notice… yet. But it also irks the others. Different people with different backgrounds, perhaps, regular people. Nice people. Cultured people. Who knows?
What we do know is that these people told Haman about Mordechai’s not bowing to him. And this filled Haman with rage. But the people who told Haman about Mordechai made a point of telling Haman that Mordechai was Jewish and that his refusal to bow was based on his Judaism. And so Haman was loathe to give the meglomaniac’s reaction of “off with his head”. Not enough for this insolent non-bower. Haman desired to destroy every man, woman, and child – the nation of Mordechai.
But it doesn’t stop there. Haman goes to the king and gets royal approval for his plot to kill all the Jews in the kingdom. Why would a king readily agree to such a dastardly plan? Could it be merely the promise of silver? Or was there some deep hatred of the Jews within him as well?
And what about the “normal” people of the kingdom who were looking forward to the great day of “kill the Jews”. Maybe it was impossible to rescind a royal decree (idiotic, no?), but decent people shouldn’t join in – especially when Haman was long gone by the time the appointed day came.
Change the names, places, and times and we are still describing a Jew-hatred that is still with us.
Our observance of Purim is forever. We will always celebrate G-d’s hand in our victories. But Purim’s sober (pardon the choice of words) side is with us – at least until the Complete Geula.
Now, let’s look ahead. With our calendar and towards the future in general.
Parshat Para is our reminder to purify ourselves. To “clean up our act”. Not just with the ritual of the Para Aduma potion, but in a complete spiritual way. The haftara talks about a new heart and a new spirit. In talks about our being infused with G-d’s spirit, about keeping the Torah, about living in Eretz Yisrael.
It inspires us to see the upcoming month of Nisan and to strengthen our commitment to G-d and our resolve to become better people – as individuals and as a nation.
Parshat Para is the “get ready” parsha.
HaChodesh after it is the “get set”. If Para focused on the individual Jew’s purification process, HaChodesh’s focus is on national rebirth. If we could do everything over, how would we do it better this time around? The clock is set back to the last days in Mitzrayim. We receive the first communal mitzva, we receive the orders of the day (night) for the Exodus. It is springtime and rebirth is in the air. The challenge is not just to “been there, did it”, but to see everything as a new experience and to make the right choices, day by day.
And then we have a “go” for Nisan.

© 2011 OU. All rights reserved.

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