As we read the Megillah this week and reviewed the Purim story, I began to think about an issue in that ancient text that connects pretty close to home today. I discussed it with Linda Meisel just yesterday and that is when we decided to send this joint message to all of you. There are many nice parts of the Purim story, Queen Esther saving the Jewish People, costumes, carnivals and fun. But there are also some troubling parts of the story - how Haman treats others, acts of hatred and corruption and so much more. The piece of the Purim story that we want to focus on today is how we treat one another. The objective of reading the Purim story every year is to inspire us to praise the blessed Mordecai and Esther and rid our world of the evil Haman. We cannot think of another time in our history that this was needed as much as it is today.
Wherever we look there are acts of hatred - in our schools, in our workplace, in the media, in Washington and sadly even in our synagogue. It is sad to admit that we need to talk about this so that it can be addressed with our children and friends and our fellow congregants. Each of us have witnessed too many examples of people speaking inappropriately to others, people using foul language, people gossiping at times in earshot of the subject and people raising their voices to a level that makes those around them uncomfortable. Our Jewish tradition puts a great value on speech including encouraging us to help raise people up with our words and actions and not knock people down. As my former camp director used to say to us on the sports fields of Camp Ramah when we used profanity, with the same mouth that you prayed this morning, you should never allow those unpleasant words to be said.
This topic of how we treat others was the focus of a long discussion at a recent Board Meeting here at TJC and we are devoting a good deal of time to creating an environment where people know how best to speak to one another, how we can all help others feel safe and comfortable and how we can be a model to other parts of society on how to get this right. That must always remain our mission and objective - to model proper behavior and to live out the positive Jewish values of appropriate speech, comforting others and respecting all members of our community. The Board has begun to create a code of conduct that we plan to share with the congregation soon that will describe what we all expect from one another and how we can help to bring out the best in each other.
We hope that you will join us in this endeavor by evaluating our own actions and working a bit harder to prevent our own bad actions or hateful speech. When we can, we should remind others when we hear something that should not have been said or witness an action that we think is over the line of appropriateness. We also want everyone to think about the statements we should make as a congregation, as a Kehillah Kedosha, as a sacred community so that we can always live by the proper Jewish values and follow our sacred Jewish traditions - so that everyone can feel supported here at TJC.
The Purim lessons do not need to end when we put the Megillah away. The fun parts of the holiday should be enjoyed but not to the point where we forget the harder lessons. Let's all work to rid the world of immorality and hatred even if it is in just a small way. In life, the small things can become big things and we each have an obligation to address this in our homes, in our schools, in our workplace and for all of us in our synagogue. Let's all work together so that our collective, positive energy and our efforts to praise and honor and trust, can drown out the noise of evil and hatred and attack. That is our mission and that must be our collective goal.
Rabbi Adam Feldman and Linda Meisel, President