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March 15, 2022 in Hazzan Asa Fradkin
Tomorrow is the beginning of Purim, and it could not come at a more somber time.
Millions of people are fleeing the Ukraine and seeking shelter in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, and even in Israel.
The Joint Distribution committee has set up a full scale operation on the Polish border to help refugees escape the relentless violence perpetrated by Russian artillery.
Two hundred thousand Jews lived in Ukraine before the war, and now they have fled in large numbers across the border. It’s an unthinkable second exodus for our people just 80 years after WWII.
Israeli Minister of the interior, Ayelet Shaked, said that Israel was preparing to absorb up to 100,000 Jewish refugees and non Jewish family from Ukraine, Russia and other countries hit hard by the war.
One hundred thousand is an astonishing number. It’s like the entire Jewish population of Baltimore fleeing to Israel in 3 months time.
Purim was never supposed to be a holiday of revelry alone. Mordechai sits in sackcloth and Ash when he learns of Haman’s genocidal plan. Esther fasts for 3 days before a dangerous approach to the king.
And where is God in the Megillah?
There is prayer and there is fasting, but God does not come to dash Haman’s plans.
Esther willingly takes life and limb in her hands and asks the king to intervene. She is called “Heroine.”
Haman is easy to brush aside when he is a character in a silly story, made all the more laughable by his portrayal in children’s books and the tradition of Hamantaschen.
He’s not such a joke when he’s got the world’s number 2 army and nukes in his pocket. Putin is a modern Amalek.
Yes, we know what Amalek looks like. We read about him again last Shabbat. He goes after the innocent and does not fear God.
The Torah says we must “wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens, Don’t Forget!”
How shall we do that? Where is God?
The Megillah is not a story of divine intervention, like we often see in the Torah, but rather of Heroism.
Mordechai and Esther take great personal risks to save their people.
Real, true heroism takes an insane amount of courage. Almost an unwise amount. Today the Ukrainian president will address congress and ask for more aerial weapons and a no fly zone. He refuses to flee his besieged capital. Unwise? Certainly.
Heroic? He is probably the century’s finest leader to date.
So today, the day before Purim begins, let us turn our view of Purim upside down.
Normally a drunken night of revelry, it becomes a cautionary tale about tyrants and the real sacrifice demanded to defeat them.
There will be many heroes who do not live to see the country they fought to keep free and many children who grow up knowing that their parents were heroes who fought back tyranny.
Let us support them and our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who again flee the whims of a tyrant in order to live free. Give to the Federation and other organizations helping to shepherd refugees to safety.
And as we toast each other and our people’s miraculous escape from annihilation, let us remember those who heroically stood up so we could live on.