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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo

TheFridayReport: The Hidden Message in the Megillah

Long long ago, in a far away place neighbours and friends rose up against the Jewish people. They turned their backs on them. They said they were conspiring against the state. They said they were poisoning wells and spreading disease. They said it would be in the nation's best interest to annihilate them.

Avi: The Megillah is an ancient warning system dressed up like a Hamentashen

This story may sound like a fairy tale or ancient history. But history replays again and again from one generation to the next. In recent weeks, bacon was left outside the Lausanne synagogue and pork was used to desecrate a synagogue in Geneva. The pork was used to wipe the door of the synagogue and then thrown at the building.

This vile incident could have taken place in 1492 or 500 CE for that matter - it makes not one difference. It's the same story over and over and over - just a newer variant to the same antisemitic disease.

What once was - is again today - and shall be tomorrow. Costumes and Hamentashen are not the true story of Purim. The Megillah is an ancient encoded scroll that encourages us to fight this pernicious hatred. A hate levelled at us 'dor le dor' - generation to generation.

Megilat Esther (The Book of Esther) is a story of valour and courage. It’s a book that pierces darkness with light and turns the tables on the plotters themselves. It is a story of heroism, dedication and a commitment to standing up for your friends in faith and loyalty. Esther and Mordechai outsmarted those who were self-empowered, who thought of themselves righteous and right - and had hate in their heart.

The masks and costumes worn on Purim have a deeper symbolic meaning. Those shiny objects are there to confuse our enemy and caution future generations. It is a brilliant message placed in a time capsule (a scroll) meant to warn even the youngest Jewish child: "Watch out! Not everyone is as they appear. Snakes slither in the shadows, waiting to destroy and disrupt.

To miss these critical lessons handed down by our sages is to overlook the Hamans of today. Because Purim took place in ancient Persia, the dichotomy between the evil then and the evil now is clear as day. Both Persias wanted to destroy the Jews. Unfortunately, Persia did not learn its lesson the first time around.

But the story of Purim is far greater than Persia. It’s a story about two ordinary people (Esther and Mordechai) who took action through self-sacrifice to fight hate and intolerance. It’s a story that explains why so many of us have an encoded need to change the world and advocate for "Tikkun Olam" - repair of the world.

I believe the Megillah and Jewish liturgy in general compel us to find meaning and purpose. We were put on this earth to effect change for the better. We were put here to improve ourselves and those around us. And most importantly, we were put here to dignify the world. In Esther and Mordechai's case, it meant saving their community and country from an impending genocide.

The echoes of the past reverberate stronger with each passing day. An antisemitic joke flashes on our television screen; another anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations washes over us; a Rabbi on the streets of New York is chased and topples over a snow bank as a group of youth laugh; Nazis on the march again chant "Jews will not replace us".

To fight this, Esthers and Mordechai's are needed now more than ever.

But don't be confused. Think of the Megillah like an ancient warning system dressed up like a Hamentashen. It beckons us to look deeper for goodness, honesty and integrity - for the truth behind the veil.

Everyone can leave their mark on this ancient scroll through acts of kindness and compassion, if they are willing and if they can see the truth, as King Hachashverosh finally did.

So it is written and so it shall be said: "And these days are commemorated and celebrated in every generation, by every family, in every province and every city. And these days of Purim will never pass from among the Jews nor shall their memory depart from their descendants" (Megillat Esther 9:28).

- Chag Sameach, Shabbat Shalom

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