Food For the Soul
Upcoming holiday: Purim
Purim 2022 begins Wednesday night, March 16 and continues through Thursday, March 17 (extending through Friday in Jerusalem). The festival commemorates the Divinely orchestrated salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” It is celebrated with Megillah readings, gifts of food, charity, feasting, and merriment. Literally “lots” in ancient Persian, Purim was thus named since Haman had thrown lots to determine when he would carry out his diabolical scheme, as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).
In addition to the miracle of Jewish survival despite the efforts of our enemies, Purim celebrates G-d’s intimate involvement in every aspect of this world. Even though there were no overt miracles recorded in the Megillah—indeed, His name is not even mentioned once—G-d was actively “pulling the strings” to care for His nation.
Additionally, Haman’s edict catalyzed a spiritual revival among the Jews. In a sense, this was even more significant than the Covenant at Sinai—an overwhelming spiritual experience that compelled the Jews to accept the Torah—since it occurred of their own volition, even as they were scattered among the Persian people and immersed in their culture. It was in the merit of this spiritual reawakening that G-d orchestrated their salvation.
From an article in Chabad.org
This year, Purim falls at time when Jews and others in the Ukraine are under attack. As we pray for their salvation let us strengthen these prayers by performing the mitzvoth associated with Purim. This year, the MADA Community Center has multiple Purim service options for all. We are so excited to be offering our first in-person holiday event in two years, following COVID-19 guidelines. In addition, like last year, we will also be providing special Purim holiday meal boxes and Mishloach Manot boxes, including fun items to celebrate the holiday for those who cannot join us in person. For further information, visit the Purim section on this web site.
This being the Shabbat before Purim, on which we celebrate the foiling of Haman the Amalekite’s plot to destroy the Jewish people, the weekly Parshah is supplemented with the Zachor reading (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) in which we are commanded to remember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from the face of the earth. The Amalekites, descendants of an evil man named Amalek, were an ancient biblical nation living near the land of Canaan. They were the first nation to attack the Jewish people after the Exodus from Egypt, and they are seen as the archetypal enemy of the Jews. The nation of Amalek is long gone, but they live on as the internal enemies that we each battle on a daily basis.
“Parshat Zachor” is the second of four special readings added during or immediately before the month of Adar (the other three being “Shekalim”, “Parah” and “Hachodesh”)
Mind Over Matter
Never Say Sorry?
The Parsha Vayikra discusses the situation where a leader or king accidentally did something wrong, admits his sin and wishes to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his people and the eyes of G-d. Unlike contemporary officials who squirm, spin and deny any wrongdoing, even to the extent of destroying their career in the process, a Jewish leader would publicly acknowledge his mistake and offer a sacrifice to G-d as a penance. The king as the figurehead of the nation would utilize this opportunity to publicly demonstrate his continuing commitment to the Commandments, and the people would thrill with the knowledge that their leader recognized his own imperfections and was openly willing to address them.
We all go off the rails on occasion, whether in our marriage, financial affairs, or relationships. We have the choice to deny the past and refuse to address the future, or to act like a true leader and face up to ourselves. Only when we are prepared to confront our demons, and honestly and publicly undertake to improve, do we demonstrate our capacity for self-invention, reinvigoration and true leadership.
From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum
Your talents are a Divine endowment
Moses was blessed with superior qualities and he was the greatest prophet of Israel ever. He viewed his superior qualities as a special endowment or gift from G-d, and not as some special achievement on his part. In his mind, therefore, he was convinced that if someone else had been blessed with the same abilities, that other person would have achieved more than he did himself.
By virtue of his humility, Moses merited the highest levels of achievement, that he was chosen to redeem Israel from Egypt, that he received the Torah for Israel, and so forth. Like Moses, [one] must think that if another had been granted his abilities, the other one might be greater still and achieve even more. This consciousness precludes a tendency towards arrogance and presumptuousness, and preserves a proper sense of humility. Furthermore, it allows one to offer sacrifices in the true spirit, to the point of meriting to offer these in the most ideal manner in the third Beit Hamikdash, “where we will offer to You our obligatory sacrifices… with love, in accordance with the precept of Your Will,” very speedily with the coming of Moshiach.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
When Small Sacrifices are Huge
This week, I had a great week. Outside the sun was shining, just as brilliantly as my inner sun. I was productive. I wrote essays; the ideas flowed from my pen. I taught extensively, returning from each class exhausted but exhilarated. I was flying high, exuberant. I was meeting people, connecting and touching them deeply just as I was being touched by them. Instead of becoming tired or depleted, the more I did, the more energized I became. Life was smiling at me. Hey, I even got an unexpected check in the mail that I had given up on. The week flew by in a dizzying haze of contentment.
How different this week was from last week.
Last week, my work was stunted. My ideas were disjointed. I felt ill at ease with my life and with my accomplishments. There seemed to be a perpetual cloud over my home. No matter what I was doing, I felt restless, uninspired. I couldn’t find my equilibrium, no matter how much I relaxed or how much I worked. I couldn’t find solutions to my inner confusion.
In the supermarket or on the streets, people seemed impatient; my friends and family sounded annoyed. The news I read reported tragedy and sadness, and the bills on my desk were unsettling.
Isn’t life like that? Some days, we’re riding high. Other days, we’re in the pits. Some days, it’s natural for us to do good things; the more we do, the higher we climb on an upward ascent to even more positivity. Other times, we get stuck on a downward spiral of circumstances that rob us of opportunity, and before we know it, we’re in a rut, depleted of energy and initiative.
The Parshah Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1–5:26) begins with G-d calling Moses: And G-d called to Moses; and G-d spoke to him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: A man who shall bring of you an offering to G-d …
The book of Leviticus teaches the laws of sacrifices. Interestingly, the last letter of the first word in this book— Vayikra, G-d’s call to Moses—is written with an unusually small aleph. A scribal mistake? What does it tell us? There are all kinds of “offerings” we can give to G-d: our energy and talents, our dispositions and thoughts, our words and deeds. These all create a kinder home for G-d in this world.
When the world is smiling at us, when we are feeling “big” and productive, it can be easier to feel connected to G-d. But what about during the drudgery or pettiness of life, when we are feeling unfulfilled and uninspired? Maintaining our connection—finding our “offering”—in times of dullness and restlessness remains our greatest challenge. And perhaps that’s when we most need to remember: Vayikra, G-d is calling to us, even in these moments of smallness and loneliness, inviting us to bring our offering and to come close.