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A Message from Rabbi Steven Schwartzman

Rabbi Schwarzman

We have begun the month of Adar, which means Purim is close at hand, followed exactly four weeks later, in Nissan, by Pesach. Believe it or not, Adar used to be the last month of the year. Nissan used to be the first month, as in fact we read in the Torah in the very first mitzvah given to the Israelites, that the month of the Exodus should be the start of our year.

And so it was, until our Judean ancestors were exiled to Babylonia in 586 BCE. There they picked up the local names for the months, and Tishrei became, for most purposes, the start of the new year, when the exiles returned to the land of Israel.

Yet there are aspects of the old calendar that speak to us still. Pesach really is a new beginning, every year, and so we get how Nissan can be, in some ways, the start of a new year for us even today. And Adar, the month with only the silly holiday of Purim, becomes in some way the last month of the year.

But Purim is not just a kids' holiday, and it deserves its place in the final month of the ancient calendar, not because it is last and therefore least, but because it is a culmination of sorts. The potential annihilation of the entire Jewish people, all of whom were subjects of the Persian king, was a real and serious threat, and all of us, or our parents, have lived through similar times. And Purim is the only holiday where the setting is not Israel, but the Diaspora, so we can relate on yet another level. We can rejoice with Esther and Mordechai and our ancient ancestors when they overcome their enemies, because we understand what they lived through as they stood up for Jews and for Judaism in a foreign culture.

Next month, in Nissan, we'll start our cycle of holidays again. But this month, the month of Purim, we can bring our year to a close, using the ancient Israelite calendar no longer in effect except in a few small ways, to add an awareness to our lives that being Jewish is worthwhile, even when precarious. We can fill our lives with meaning so that the everyday challenges and setbacks we all face can be seen as part of a larger picture.

And there is no better way to do this than to observe the four mitzvot of Purim: hearing the megillah read (so that we relive the story of Purim), giving charity to the poor (so that we share our bounty with others in need), giving gifts to friends (to bring a smile to their faces), and enjoying a festive meal on Purim (because, as Jews, we always celebrate with food and drink). Join us in shul for Purim, and every day. It will add meaning to your life, and to the lives of those around you.

Rabbi Steven Schwarzman

 

 

Mon, 30 March 2020 5 Nisan 5780