It’s Purim this coming week.
I do look forward to celebrating with one and all.
I love the celebration, but always feel a twinge that the Festival deserves more serious attention. It’s really not a children’s story.
There are two extraordinary moments of courage in the Book of Ester. There is Mordechai, who refused to bow down, even before Haman, even knowing what might befall him and his people. And there is, of course, Ester, the pampered princess who finds the courage to go before the King, unbidden, to plead on behalf of her people – her status as a Jew being previously unknown to her husband.
I’ve been thinking about these acts of heroism in the context of the heroes I’ve met this week in Israel where I have been taking part in a meeting of the European Masorti Rabbinic team.
We go round the table sharing any news and Rabbi Reuven Stamov introduces himself, ‘Shalom, I’m Reuven, from the Ukraine, we are at war.’ He laughs, he has to.
Our colleagues from France are here. Rabbi Yeshaya Dalsace of the community just around the corner from the attacked supermarket in Paris showed my pictures of his Synagogue, being used by soldiers from the French special forces, sat in his Bet Midrash, weaponry spread out across the table. He laughed too, he has too.
One of our presenters was Rabbi Tamar Eldad-Applebaum, who spoke about being a Masorti Rabbi in Israel, ‘You need a lot of Emunah, - faith.’ Facing an Israeli society seemingly utterly polarised between the Daatiim – religious - and the devoutly Hilonim - secular she has founded a new community to practice what she calls Israeli-Judaism, neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi, speaking to both Datiim and Hilonim. Hundreds are attracted. If you want to come, another of the Israeli rabbis leant over to me, you have to get there in plenty of time, otherwise you won’t get in.
Rabbi Joel Levy, now combining his work at Kol Nefesh Masorti with serving as Director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, is trying to transform Masorti Judaism worldwide by giving thousands of us the skills and the insights to grapple with the inner workings of the tradition ourselves.
The list goes on.
So what does it take to be a hero? A core belief that something is worth struggling for, and the perseverance to stand up for what is right, even if it is not easy. We are blessed to have many heroes in the Masorti movement. We are blessed to have, in the lead characters of the Purim narrative, great heroes to inspire all of us. So here’s a question – what do you believe in, and do you have the courage of your convictions to stand up for these core beliefs?