Demonstrators in Nairobi, Kenya rally against wave of anti-gay legislation in Africa. Photo: Getty Images.
The ancient rabbi Hillel famously asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” I feel it is important to answer the first two questions in the way Hillel hoped—that we must stand up for both ourselves and for others. (After 40 years as a legislator, my answer to the third is “as soon as we have the votes.”)
On Purim, Jews remember the oppression we faced and overcame in ancient Persia and throughout our history. With Hillel’s questions in mind, we must rededicate ourselves to combating anti-Semitism throughout the world and to combating the oppression of others.
We often look at Purim as a day of inversion and celebration: we wear masks and don costumes, make noise at Haman’s name, and eat a festive meal with family and friends. But Purim’s meaning goes far deeper than the surface and it is hardly about just masquerading and reveling; everything from the narrative of Megillat Esther to the mitzvot (commandments) of the day directs us to rout out oppression and refuse to let injustice reign in the world. We are guided by the personal examples of Mordechai and Esther and by the timeless values of the Jewish story to build better lives for ourselves and for all in the world. Read More