Rabbi Mendel Liberow
Rabbi Mendel Liberow
music in the park san jose

They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.

Jewish festivals often conjure up something along these lines. Purim, the Jewish festival that takes place on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar—this year March 16-17—is no exception.

In 357 BCE, Persia’s King Ahasuerus signed a decree drawn up by his antisemitic vizier Haman to annihilate all the Jews scattered throughout the Persian empire. Mordechai, who was the Jewish leader at the time, gathered all the Jews together to pray and fast, begging G-d for salvation. With the help of Queen Esther, the wife of King Ahasuerus, who finally revealed her true Jewish identity, the decree was averted and Haman was hanged. The Jewish people were subsequently granted the right to self-determination, and on the 14th day of the month of Adar, the Jews won the war against their enemies, creating a day of all-round celebration.

Purim reminds us how important it is to unite in the face of adversity. Haman’s antisemitic decree was to annihilate the Jewish people, whom he saw as “one nation, scattered and dispersed amongst the provinces”—he recognized that disharmony leads to destruction. What Haman failed to realize was that yes, the Jewish people were scattered, but they were still “one nation.” Unity is the greatest protector. The Jewish people united to pray for redemption, and united they were saved.

And in 2022, when millions of people in Ukraine came under fire, we united once more. I recently attended a local event at the Morgan Hill Downtown Amphitheater, to pray for peace and an end to the bloodshed. It was beautiful to see the unity among people of all faiths and backgrounds, gathered in support of those facing the devastation of war.

It was heartening, too, to see the united global effort to help rescue and resettle millions of refugees. And I admired the commitment and bravery of my colleagues, Chabad rabbis in Ukraine, who have been at the forefront of this united effort to bring aid to those in need. It reminded me of the Purim story, of the salvation that comes when we unite.

In addition to the festivities, Purim is celebrated by giving charity and gifts to family, neighbors and friends. But why the focus on giving to others in the midst of our own celebration?

The answer is clear from the Purim story itself. We were saved because of our unfaltering unity and so we celebrate by strengthening our unity. By celebrating Purim through giving gifts and donating to charity, we acknowledge that we are all inherently one: one in suffering and equally one in celebration and joy. My gain is my neighbor’s gain, and my neighbor’s pain is also my pain. This year, we have seen that more than ever. We cannot ignore the pain of others—we must respond united to make the world a better place. 

The Purim story reminds us that when we are united, love will prevail.

Rabbi Mendel Liberow is the director of Chabad South County Jewish Center in Morgan Hill, which offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations. For information, visit JewishMH.com.

Please be in touch with any comments, questions or feedback at [email protected].

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