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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Directing our Energies: Renewal & Acceptance

by Rabbi Ezra Seligsohn (Posted on March 17, 2022)
Topics: Purim, Covid-19

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Purim Megillah

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As we come out of Purim, I wanted to share a message related not just to this incredible holiday, but to this life moment that we find ourselves in. At the end of the Megillah, the Jewish people accept upon themselves the holiday of Purim and the mitzvot associated with it. The pasuk states “kimu vekiblu hayehudim” (Est. 9:27), the Jewish people established and accepted upon themselves to commemorate this day of Purim that year, and ultimately for future generations.

This idea of kimu vekiblu, that they accepted it upon themselves and established this day as a holiday, becomes almost a rallying cry. It becomes a reassertion of Jewish values, of Jewish commitment to our people and our history. The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat discusses how the Jewish people at Har Sinai received the Torah with difficulty (Shabbat 88a), essentially in a state of coercion: they had to accept the Torah at that moment and did not really have a choice.

The Jewish people in the diaspora, in Shushan after their victories, accepted the holiday of Purim with a renewed vigor, with a sense of power. They can create new holidays, commemorate salvation from existential crisis, mark the time, and celebrate being saved.

It is noteworthy that Matan Torah, the receiving of the Torah, is really neither celebrated nor commemorated in the Torah. It is true that Chazal later identified Shavuot as the day the Jewish people received the Torah (and today, we see this manifest in the Torah readings for the day and the tradition to stay up all night learning). But in the biblical text itself, in contrast with the other regalim (major holidays), Shavuot is not given a historical moment to celebrate or remember. 

What did the Jewish people do after they received the Torah? The main activity we are aware of is the creation and celebration of the golden calf, which of course was a misfire, but also important to see as a moment where the Jewish people, and even Aharon, directed their energy and passion to the wrong destination. What is clear from the narrative, however, is that there is a certain type of energy that can be felt when something new has come about, when there is an acceptance or a recognition that the people are in a new moment. They are now free from Egypt, have celebrated a new commitment with God – the elation and drive is palpable. This is true in the context of Purim, where the Jewish people are kimu vekiblu, and it is also true today.

It feels for me, and I know for so many of us, that we are in a new moment. We are in a fresh moment coming out of what feels like two straight years of Covid, of isolation, of restrictions, of pain.  Of course, there were variable phases throughout, but it feels like there is really some kind of light that we are experiencing. I think what we learned from the Purim story is that this has to be noted and commemorated and recognized, both the existential crisis and fear associated with the time of being in darkness, but also really seeing how exciting and wonderful it is to see the world opening up in front of our eyes. To see so many people coming back in person to the synagogue, the Beit Knesset. To see you, to see us, celebrating Purim this week, dressing up, sharing food, breaking bread together.

We have to recognize both the fear and the difficulty, and also the celebration of this moment of acceptance. This moment of renewing our commitments to our community, to our friendships, to our families, beyond our daled amot, beyond the small containers that so many of us have lived in, as we open up and fully extend ourselves back into broader community life. 

Allow us to invoke our forebearers: kimu vekiblu kol hayehudim. Let us accept upon ourselves, reaccept upon ourselves the responsibilities that we have as a Jewish people – values of love, kindness, and connection.

Shabbat Shalom.