In case you hadn't heard, Purim is around the corner.
Ah Purim. Costumes, bawdiness, drinking (lots of drinking), and violence.
Yes, as I shared with members of the Siegel JCC staff yesterday, the story of Purim is, as much as anything else, a story of violence. Murder and palace intrigue. Attempted genocide by Haman and his followers. Executions and vengeance. Ethnic cleansing by the Jews in 'defense' against the unrescinded order.
It's an aspect of the story that we tend to skim over. We want to get to the costume parade, the silly jokes, see how the rabbi is dressed up this time, and get to the carnival. We don't want to talk about violence with our kids.
But the violence is there. It's there to stand as a warning. For we know that God is absent from the text of the book of Esther. Indeed, they do a play on words with Esther's name--God's face is hidden (hester) from the sight of Israel. And in the absence of God, in the absence of holiness, all hell breaks loose.
It's a reminder that bringing an end to violence is all our responsibility. We all have an obligation, a sacred obligation, to see that the kind of violence present in the book of Esther doesn't come to pass. We may not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor. And too much blood is being spilled.
That's why this Shabbat, in addition to our celebration of Purim, we'll be observing Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath. On Saturday, we will be offering prayers and meditations recognizing the damage gun violence does to our community, and be hearing from two of our teens who spoke to our senators and congressmen about the issue of gun violence at last week's L'taken weekend.
In addition, I'm joining with my colleagues--Jewish and Christian--in the so-called "Old Ninth Ward" in Wilmington to form a "Rapid Response Team" whenever violence takes place in our part of the city. The purpose? To provide an interfaith presence of peace, to be a support to the family and neighborhood, to shine a light on the darkness that overwhelms our city to the point that we are truly numb to the violence that takes place in our community. As a congregation, when we renovated 300 W. Lea Blvd, we made a choice to stay in the city. To me, that means we must remain of the city as well, and provide support for the community around us.
Sometime in the weeks ahead I'll be sharing what else we can do, including direct service and advocacy efforts, to bring peace to our city. For now, around the frivolity and rejoicing and happiness of Purim, I invite you to join me, to join us this Shabbat morning and remember our commitments as well.