Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
Chodesh tov / a good new month to you! If you’ve looked up at the night sky recently you might have noticed that the moon has been shrinking away to nothing. It’s new moon, which means that it’s a new month on the Jewish calendar.
The new month we’re beginning today is the month of Adar, about which the Talmud teaches, “When Adar enters, joy increases!”
Why is this a month of joy? One answer is that this is the month which contains Purim. In two weeks when the moon is full, we’ll celebrate Purim by entering into the story of the Megillah of Esther. The Purim story is yet another one of those “they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat” tales — this time it was the wicked vizier Haman in the Persian city of Shushan who wanted to kill the kingdom’s Jews because the virtuous Mordechai wouldn’t bow down to him, only to God. The Megillah reads almost like a pulp novel or soap opera, complete with harems, beauty pageants, wicked viziers, and wild swings of fortune.
But there are also deeper themes in the Megillah of Esther. One of them is the theme of inversion. The king, who ought by all rights to be in power, turns out to be a buffoon; Haman, who builds a gallows for Mordechai, winds up swinging on it himself; Esther, who hides her Jewishness, “comes out” and saves her people. Everything gets turned upside-down in a way that’s for the good. Maybe that’s part of why this is a joyful month: because it invites us to turn things upside-down and see them from a new vantage point.
The Megillah of Esther never mentions God. But God’s presence is palpable throughout the text. God is hidden — nistar (the word comes from the same root as the name Esther, who hides her Jewishness) — but just because God’s presence is invisible, that doesn’t mean God isn’t there. On the contrary: divine providence is everywhere in this story. Maybe that’s another reason why this is a joyful month: because we remember that even when God seems absent and hidden from us, divine presence is always here.
Happy Adar! Join us at CBI on Wednesday, March 4 for this year’s celebration of Purim — an Alice-In-Wonderland-Themed Purim Celebration, complete with kids’ costume parade, a Wonderland-themed Purim Spiel which will tell the story of the Megillah in a new way, decorations by Jen Burt (those who attended our Tu BiShvat seder have some idea of what to expect there!), a variety of games for all ages, and this year a sweet and savory buffet (bring hamentaschen / your favorite dessert snack — and/or Middle Eastern or Persian nibbly foods, such as hummus and pita or olives or stuffed grape leaves, to share.) Please RSVP to the office by February 25 and let us know :
– how many people are coming in your party
– whether you would like for us to provide pizza for any of your party (at 5:30, before the formal celebration begins)
– and what you plan to bring to the sweet-and-savory snacks buffet!
(If we hear from several people who are all bringing the same thing, we will reach out and try to shift things around so we don’t wind up with ten tubs of hummus and nothing else.)
May we all experience increased joy as the Adar moon waxes. Looking forward to seeing y’all at Purim!
Blessings to all,