Sermon for Parshat Terumah/Purim February 24, 2007 /6 Adar 5767 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Shabbat Shalom to all of our guests. Welcome home to Gary and Judy Rosenblatt. We, as well as your mother, love having you here. Happy and healthy birthday to you, Gary. Wishing you and yours many more years of good health and happiness.
My dear friends, the real story of Purim is a sad story with a happy ending. We learn a great deal from this Megillah Esther about an evil despot, Haman, who tries to get rid of the Jews; to annihilate the entire population of Jews in the world. Fortunately, the outcome became a miracle from extreme sadness to great joy and survival. However, we know that there have been episodes in history when the Jewish people were seriously attacked and decimated in large numbers. Since the earliest times and unfortunately, until today: there was the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the Roman Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Polish Pogroms. In more recent times, the Holocaust, another plot to wipe us off the face of the earth, we lost of six million of our brothers and sisters. Let’s not forget about the blood that has been spilled since the founding of the state of Israel since 1948.
Without a doubt, we have miraculously survived as a nation, again and again. Our history is full of intrigue, cliffhangers and adventures. The evil enemies throughout our turbulent history may each have had a different face, but their motives were all the same. And yet, time and time again, we emerged victorious, thank G-d but sometimes with a heavy price, of loss of so many of our loved one.
Against all odds, we continue to rise to the occasion, not merely existing but surpassing tremendous odds, in each civilization, to become leaders and innovators and contributors to that particular society. Look at us today, even though we are a minority in the world population, there is hardly an industry where we have not made dramatic contributions. Jewish names are prominent in almost every field, like economics, the arts and humanities, law and medicine. The beauty of the Jewish nation is that we focus on overcoming, not succumbing to difficulties and hardship. We carry on in life and move forward. The secret of our survival has always been our belief in G-d, our faith in the words of Torah and recognizing we must work together to be a unified people.
As we now stand today on Shabbat Terumah, the clock is ticking. We have one week to prepare for Purim. Some of you here today may have been thinking about Purim since last year. You think about what costume you are going to wear or what baskets you will send to friends. Others are saying, "Is it Purim already?" It’s like a wake up call, you haven’t really given it much thought and now you’re saying to yourself, "Uh-oh – only seven days left." Some of you will say, "What do I need to prepare? I’ll throw something together out of my closet." There are all different ranges of dealing with Purim.
Some of us will use our imagination and go all out with our costumes. There is a family: Shifrah and Mordechai Rosenberg from Valley Village, California are the talk of their town. Twenty three years ago they began a wonderful family tradition that has taken on a life of its own. Each year they take a particular theme. They decorate their house and then all dress up in elaborate costumes that their friends and neighbors now look forward to seeing each Purim. One year they were pirates, the husband, wife and all eight children even the baby was in costume. The house became a large pirate ship. They’ve done circus themes, the Wizard of Oz, Knights of the Round Table, an African Safari, Alice in Wonderland, gangsters, Egyptians and so much more. It’s brought them closer as a family and they have devoted an entire wall of their home for yearly Purim family photos. Catalogued like a museum, complete with dates, the wall is like a living diary of their most festive holiday.
How do we get in the mood and prepare for Purim? What are we supposed to do? There are four obligations we should do. First, on Saturday evening and on Sunday morning we will listen to the story of Esther. Second, we give Matanot Laevyonimt:money to the needy. Third, we give Mishloch Manot: gift baskets to at least two people. And Fourth, we partake of a Purim Seudah:a delicious Purim meal.
This is a holiday of imagination and joy. The month of Adar is the month of simchas. We are supposed to increase our joy. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov says that joy breaks all barriers. The point is to be b’simcha. We go above our pain and suffering and learn to be full of joy and trust in G-d. Ourpintele yid, the spark inside of every Jew, is ignited. comes out more. That is the secret of our survival and how we continue to move forward. Our sages tell us "There is no joy like the joy of the heart."
And that is exactly what we will create here at Kneseth Israel – on Purim and throughout the year. I hope that everyone will join together next week to hear the Megillah. It is with great pleasure to announce that the international performer, Michael Rosman, who you may have seen on David Letterman, will be here to entertain us. Come, bring a friend.
The more the merrier – especially on Purim. Let this always be a place b’simcha. Celebrating together, being together and finding joy in each other. That is the secret of our survival. No one, not Haman nor those who have followed in his footsteps can ever break that barrier. Come, awaken and recharge your pintele yid with a joyous celebration.