A Gift For Purim: Believe In Good!

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An image from Unsung Hero: TVC Thai Life

Sunday is Purim, the most joyful day on the Jewish calendar. Sadly, because of the threats that the Jewish community has faced over the past several weeks, many of us are not feeling so joyful.  However, given that Purim celebrates our ability to rise above those who threaten our very existence, the holiday has much to teach us.

We read the Book of Esther on Purim. It tells the story of our ancestor’s victory over Haman who sought to destroy the Jewish people. This victory reminds us that for centuries we’ve had to find the strength and courage to stand up to hate. Purim celebrations, including shpiels (plays that recount the story of Purim), costumes, festive meals, and, of course, hamantaschen (the triangular cookies stuffed with filling that are symbolic of Haman’s hat), are important reminders that we have and will continue to overcome those who seek to do us harm. And the strength of our Purim heroes, Queen Esther, Mordechai and the Jews of Shushan, are a reminder that when we are united as a people, haters come crashing down.

It’s customary for Jews to send each other Mishloach Manot – gifts of food and drink – on Purim. By sending these gifts, not only do we help spread the joy of Purim, we also do our part to unite our community. In the Book of Esther, Haman asserted that the Jewish people were “a scattered and divided nation.” Sadly, there have been times in history when it seemed like Haman’s assertion was accurate. Even today, as we face a rise in anti-Semitism and a divisive political climate, we struggle to be a united Jewish community. Mishloach Manot are a way for us to heal the divide and, therefore, a way to ensure that Haman’s terrible assertion about us never really comes true. We might disagree vehemently, we might be fearful, but on Purim, our tradition asks us to come together and celebrate the downfall of Haman.

While Mishloach Manot are usually gifts of food and drink, they can also be words of Torah – a powerful lesson that brings us closer to each other. Today, I’m including my Mishloach Manot in this message.  It’s a lesson that’s not comprised of traditional biblical verses. Rather, it’s an extremely touching life insurance commercial from Thailand. Yes, you read that correctly! Please click on the image below to watch “Unsung Hero: TVC Thai Life”:

This is truly a beautiful commercial. The lesson it contains reminds me that when we do our best to rise above the negativity out there and go out of our way to lift each other up, we can discover pure goodness. When we discover this goodness, we experience pure happiness. And this pure happiness is the essence of Purim.

Please pass this video on as we get ready to celebrate our joyous holiday. Make it your own Mishloach Manot, a simple gift that reminds us of the importance of coming together and believing in good.

Cheryl, Abigail, Jonah and I wish you all a very happy Purim.

Today’s Community-Wide Gathering Addressing Anti-Semitism

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This morning I joined with other rabbis, Jewish professionals, law enforcement – including members of the FBI, FEMA, BSO and police chiefs from Broward and Miami Dade – including the Chiefs from the Plantation and Davie Police Departments – at a meeting to discuss the outbreak of anti-Semitism in our community. This meeting was organized and led by our Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  We were briefed by the FBI about the current situation. It is clear that they are working very closely on investigating the many anti-Semitic incidents rocking our community. During our meeting, it was announced that an arrest has been made related to the bomb threats called into Jewish institutions. The FBI made it clear, however, that this is an ongoing investigation that has a possible international nexus. Law enforcement did caution us all to be wary of media reports surrounding these incidents. In addition, they stressed that if we do find ourselves in a building where a bomb threat has been called in, do NOT share information – especially on social media. Doing so puts everyone involved at risk. This morning’s meeting gave me great confidence that this crisis is being handled extremely well and everything is being done to ensure our safety and security. Our law enforcement community is incredible.

In attendance at this morning’s meeting were representatives of the American Jewish Committee, the Miami Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League. With these organizations, we spoke about ways in which we as a community can strategize and work to combat the rise in anti-Semitism. Congresswoman Schultz encourages us to build bridges with other religious and ethnic communities to help teach others about our faith. She and others also stressed the need to put aside religious and political differences within our Jewish family and come together to combat hate. While it was not shared at the meeting, the ADL did propose the following strategy to President Trump – click here.

As we are taught in Pirkei Avot: “Do not separate yourself from the community.”  Now is the time to come together. To be with each other. To support each other. To show the world that we stand together as a strong, united community. And so, I urge you to join us tonight at 7:30PM for Kabbalat Shabbat and all other events at Ramat Shalom. Your presence is one of the best ways to combat hate directed against us.