Raising a Glass to Purim and Solidarity

March 23, 2016 by

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Purim reminds us to reach out to others, focus on what connects – rather than divides – us, and work to better the Jewish collective.

Unlike other Jewish holidays which may encourage us to introspect, repent, celebrate victories over enemies and miracles that changed our fate, the focus of Purim is on solidarity.

In the Megilla story, Jewish national victory was brought about by Esther (guided by her uncle, Mordechai) who answered a call on behalf of her People. With the Jewish Collective standing behind her, she risked everything on their behalf. The rabbis chose to commemorate the victory not with mere prayer and feasting (as is customary in other celebrations of national victories), but also with social and communal outreach and charity.

In Mishnaic times, the month of Adar, and Purim in particular, were dedicated to tackling social issues and communal needs (“all the needs of the public were addressed” (T. Shkalim 1:1)

To this day, it’s customary to fast the day before Purim, a day called “the Fast of Esther”. Just as Esther called for Jews to gather in Shushan and fast on her behalf (4:16), Jewish (and particularly Orthodox) activists mark this day as International Agunah Day to raise awareness, and advocate for change on behalf of “chained women” (women whose husbands refuse to grant her a divorce document in Jewish religious law, known as a get.)

Purim is the time for us to gather as Esther did; all of us around the world separate but together, reminding ourselves of the power of a more unified community.

Immediately after this fast, we celebrate Purim in 4 ways:

  1. Reading Megilla – gathering communities together to retell the ancient story
  2. Purim Feast – inviting others into our homes to celebrate and rejoice in the victory
  3. Food portions – urging us to reach out to those around us and share with them
  4. Gifts to the Poor – challenging us to extend assistance to those we may not know, but who need it the most.

No other holiday forces us to look beyond ourselves and ensure that the needs of others are being met.

And so there’s no better time of year to strengthen our conviction to take responsibility for the “others” in our midst, both near and distant.

For at least one day, let’s forget that the other is too far to our left, or too far to our right, too hawkish or too bleeding-heart. While raising a glass, let’s blur the distinctions between us and focus on strengthening the fabric that binds us together. Let’s better, not batter, our State and our People. This Purim, let’s get so drunk on achdut (Jewish solidarity) that we can no longer tell the difference between “our side” and “theirs” and remember that we’re all on the same team, working to make Israel a better place to Be a People Free in Our Land.




For an educational session based on these themes, check out “Purim and Peoplehood: On Collective Responsibility”.

To browse some of our favorite Israeli charities, check out our page: The Hope: Israeli NGOs

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