Purim and hope

Purim and hope

Despite their lack of permanent mooring in a specific part of a season, some Jewish holidays are closely tied to them.

Pesach always is deep into springtime; Shavuot, in early summer, is a harvest festival, and so is Sukkot, although it’s in the fall and marks a different harvest. (That’s as far as my understanding of different harvests go, so it’ll have to do.) Chanukah is about bringing light to the darkness of early winter.

Purim bounces around, though. It’s sort of edgy that way. Sometimes it falls in the nasty end stretches of winter, the gray and brown and despairing part, when you’re sick of your winter coat but can’t avoid it. Costumes are particularly useful just then — who wants to wear that sweater again???

This year, though, Purim falls just a few days after the beginning of spring.

Which brings us to hope.

As I’ve pointed out before, we often find unexpected patterns; sometimes many stories coincidentally focus on celebration, or stigma, or food, or war.

This time, it’s hope.

Part of it is obvious. It’s spring. And part of it is the resilience of the human spirit, trying to come back from a series of horrors. Yes, there’s some guilt in there too — how can we decide to indulge in hope, safely away from the butchery, facing sporadic antisemitism but still, to be realistic, nothing like what earlier generations of our families and our people have confronted.

There’s always a tension in that balance. The return to hope and its big sister, joy, was tentative after September 11. Irony, we were told, was dead. But then laughter started bubbling up. Jokes came back.

Things change.

So now we can hope for better times. We can think of the story of Esther and Mordechai. The Jewish people were doomed. It was hopeless. But that’s not how the story ends.

Of course, the story ends with the slaughter of other people; most of them most likely were innocent. Let’s hope that our story now takes a different turn.

But we can hope for the return of the hostages. We can despair, or we can hope. We can hope for the end of the war, the destruction of Hamas, the reconstruction of something decent in Gaza (and we can rejoice in not having to undertake that seemingly hopeless task. Anyone who tries it seriously would need an endless supply of hope, probably administered intravenously).

We can hope for decency, civility, goodness, and love, and we can work together to try to make something good happen.

Happy Purim, everyone.


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