Posts tagged " Purim "

See Something; Say Nothing

March 1st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

Today is Purim. Among other things this means that, this week, many people with an agenda are trying to validate their ideas by quoting verses from the Scroll of Esther. Are you a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate? You can find Scriptural support. Do you think that gun ownership should be outlawed? You can find Scriptural support. This doesn’t mean that Scripture has nothing to say on the topic. It means that the ancient Jewish wisdom that emanates from Scripture can’t be easily absorbed or transmitted in one quick column lacking context, subtlety and serious arguments and debate.

On the other hand, it is Purim, so I am going to join the crowd and link to the holiday, not directly on the gun issue, but on two news media items I saw in the press this week. The first was an article by the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency claiming that the speech given at CPAC by the NRA’s executive-vice-president could exacerbate anti-Semitism. Since Wayne LaPierre mentioned Saul Alinsky, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros, his speech could be seen as a dog whistle to anti-Semites. To the author’s credit, he acknowledges that it is hard to discuss the gun-control movement without mentioning Soros and Bloomberg as leaders in it, but he thinks that it, somehow, well, kind of, shouldn’t be said because even if Wayne LaPierre isn’t anti-Semitic himself, he might be seen as encouraging others to be so.

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127 Ways to Leave Your Pessimism

February 26th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

In the constant struggle to build a successful life, it is all too easy to be pulled down by hardship, dark recollections, terrifying fears, and sad thoughts flitting through one’s mind.  One remains confidently focused on the task by treating each day as its own opportunity to achieve success and happiness.

This Thursday we celebrate Purim on which we read the Book of Esther. It opens:

And it was in the days of Ahasuerosh, he was Ahasuerosh who reigned from Hodu to Kush, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.
(Esther 1:1)

The number 127 occurs only once again in all of Scripture—at the end of Sarah’s life.

And Sarah was a hundred and twenty-seven years old…
(Genesis 23:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom links the two occurrences. In Scripture, numbers have great meaning and if a number only appears twice, we need to note the connection between the two occasions.

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Addendum to Purim Musing

March 10th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 8 comments

Important: Do not read this if your maiden or married name is Lapin or if you are married to a Lapin. For everyone else, I’ve got to tell you what happened. Carlisle, while your scone recipe would have solved my baking problem,  I needed a frosted cake for the Sunday Purim feast because I had made books from fondant to go with our theme and they will sit on the frosting. (I do hope to try the scone recipe another time.) We will be about forty people, so I actually need two cakes. I found a chocolate cake recipe that, doubled, called for everything I had in the ‘couldn’t use for the hamentaschen’ bag and it was a mix in one bowl recipe. Perfect! Of course, I had to add other ingredients too. Lots of them. And then – and I promise you that I am not normally a scatter-brained individual – I forgot that I already had baking powder and baking soda in the mix and I added them. Do you know how if you put in too much salt or too much sugar you can adjust a recipe? Well, when you put in too much baking powder or too much baking soda, the advice is to throw it out and start over! It will make your cake bitter. AARGH! This is why you should not read this if you are going to be at the Sunday special meal. I tried scooping out as much baking powder as I could and I am going to bake it anyway. I will at least have a base for my fondant creations and everyone will have had so much sugar through the day anyway that if the cake is inedible so be it. Please keep my secret and don’t think too harshly of me.

The Great Purim Baking Caper

March 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 135 comments

Today, I originally planned to write about immigration, which I would categorize as a political topic. But then, I started baking the Purim cookie known as hamantashen and things went so wrong that I thought I should share that experience with you.  I would categorize that topic as a family/personal Musing. While I much appreciate the regular feedback I get on my Musings, very, very, very few readers actually write comments on our website. I have no way of knowing if more people grimace in disappointment when the topic is political or social or whether a greater number shake their heads when I get personal, muttering, “I don’t really need to hear that.” So, until thousands more of you comment letting me know where your interests lie, I will continue to write about whatever is plucking at my mind and heartstrings.

I just spent four hours making cookies that are not as beautifully shaped (pictures below) and possibly not even as tasty as ones I could buy for $2.99 a dozen. If you don’t understand this, you are probably not female and cannot be (on this issue at least) what Anne of Green Gables would call a kindred spirit.

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Were Haman’s sons hanged twice?

March 5th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

Question:

Why did Esther ask the King to hang the ten sons of Haman who were already dead?

Thanks,

∼ Subash

Answer:

Dear Subash,

We’re going to answer your question with another question. Why are Jews obligated to hear the Book of Esther read from a handwritten scroll on Purim, the Feast of Esther?  Meanwhile, the Book of Maccabees relating the historical events of the holiday of Chanukah, plays no religious role on the festival of Chanukah and is not even included in the Tanach.

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Ties that Bind

March 15th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Recently, I received exactly the same answer from two separate people to whom I had asked two separate questions. I asked the first about marriage and the second about business.

The first person told me that his daughter was engaged to a ‘gem’ of a man. I challenged him on how he knew that his daughter’s beau was indeed a ‘gem’.

His response: I know several men with whom he served in the army.

The second question I asked of a client who had consulted me on succession issues in his company. I asked him why he had bypassed the procedures we had set up by abruptly finalizing the hire of one particular candidate.

His response: I know several men with whom he served in the navy.

Other responses which could generate similar confidence might be (i) We’ve served together on the board of our synagogue for years; (ii) All the folks in his Rotary Club have known him for ages and think the world of him.

What factor contributed to the sense of trust about the person being discussed? The individual was a respected part of a respected group.

Examine your own life to ensure that you are adequately connected to worthwhile and identifiable groups. Being isolated damages your income producing potential and being a loner harms your capacity to find love and lasting happiness.

While building and maintaining relationships within groups it is important to recognize the restraints that such affiliations place upon us. Serving in the United States military is a privilege but it also restricts one from criticizing the president. Being part of a family bestows benefits but it also carries responsibilities and restraints.

About 2,500 years ago, Persian Jews faced genocide. The plot was launched when the Jewish community leader, Mordechai, refused to bow to Haman. See the following verses from Esther, chapter 3.

After these events, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman…and elevated him, setting his position above all the aristocrats…

All the king’s servants in the king’s gate bowed and prostrated before Haman for so had the king commanded… However Mordechai did not bow and did not prostrate himself.

Then the king’s servants…said to Mordechai, Why do you violate the king’s commandment?

As they repeatedly spoke to him daily and he did not listen to them, they told Haman in order to discover whether Mordechai’s words would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew.

When Haman saw that Mordechai neither bowed nor prostrated himself, he was filled with fury.

He scorned the idea of attacking only Mordechai because they had told him Mordechai’s people and Haman resolved to destroy all the Jews in the entire kingdom of Ahasuerus, the people of Mordechai.

The giant question is why Mordechai didn’t bow just as everyone else did? After all, bowing was (and still is) a very common way to express humility and respect.

Many in Scripture bowed for this reason: Abraham to three travellers (Genesis 18:2); Abraham to the Hittites (Genesis 23:7, 12); Jacob to Esau (Genesis 33:3); Jacob’s sons to the ruler of Egypt (Genesis 43:28); Moses to his father-in-law (Exodus 18:7). There are many other similar instances.

In most cases, Mordechai would have been quite comfortable showing respect and humility. But Haman was known as a notorious anti-Semite. As a leading member of the Jewish people Mordechai knew he was representing his people, not only himself. Bowing would have diminished the Jewish people as a whole conceding power over the Jews to a human being rather than to God. The group affiliation circumscribed his behavior.

This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Esther, Purim. Purim is way more than the celebration of a historical event. Esther’s adventures long ago in faraway Persia are part of a chain which formed the DNA for today’s headlines about Iran, Islam and Israel. The deceptively simple Book of Esther contains hints to recent events and to those yet to happen. Travel through history with me in my audio CD set Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam, only $19 through Purim.

Glamour Girls – originally published on February 24, 2010

March 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

The Purim holiday, as described in the Book of Esther, is only a few days away. A truly joyous day, Purim festivities include a strong tradition of dressing up in costumes. For very young girls Purim has routinely been the day when they can glop on lipstick, blush and eye shadow, don their mother’s discarded dresses and totter in Mommy’s high heels (until they actually need to move around). A crown on the head, preferably bejeweled, completes the sartorial splendor and the miniature Queen Esthers are ready for the day’s activities. 

This masquerade is based on an essential message of the day – things are not as they seem on the surface. The elegant Queen Esther is really the Jewish girl Hadassah; the man who saves King Achashverosh from a plot against his life is Hadassah’s relative Mordechai; a day prepared for the slaughter of the Jewish people turns into a day of victory. It is not a coincidence that the name Esther means hidden while the Hebrew name for Scroll, Megila, means reveal.  Thus the real name for the Book of Esther or The Scroll of Esther is “Revealing the Hidden.” 

Something that is uniquely hidden in this scroll is mention of God.  Esther is the only book in the Jewish Bible or Tanach which contains no overt mention of God.  His name and His presence are hidden, though easily discerned by those who look. 

But, I admit that as a little girl, I was less interested in the theological implications and more enamored with the parentally authorized make-up. While teens and adults dress up as well, sometimes in incredibly clever concoctions, the allure of pretending to be grown-up and gorgeous presents an irresistible tug for the just post-toddler set.

Which is why I was distressed to read that some shoe manufacturers are marketing shoes with heels aimed at the early elementary crowd. While Matthew Dairman, a spokesman for the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, sees heels on five year old feet as a physical problem — which it certainly is — surely there is a less visible issue as well. Purim masquerades are only fun because they are masquerades –limited to a finite time and place and easily recognized as a caricature. 

Little girls see Queen Esther through a haze of fantasy; a sort of Cinderella. As they grow and mature they realize that the orphaned Esther was forcibly taken from her home and community, married to a man who didn’t by any means measure up to Prince Charming standards and saved her people only through a sacrifice of her own chances for a fulfilling and happy life. Not quite the “happily ever after” fairy tale. But internal growth and maturity can be stunted if external growth and maturity is accelerated. If our society moves in the direction where heels and cosmetics become a standard part of six-year-olds’ repertoire (even for “only special occasions”), I can’t help thinking that the chances of producing authentic heroines like Queen Esther unfortunately diminish.  

Glamour Girls

February 23rd, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

The Purim holiday, as described in the Book of Esther, is only a few days away. A truly joyous day, Purim festivities include a strong tradition of dressing up in costumes. For very young girls Purim has routinely been the day when they can glop on lipstick, blush and eye shadow, don their mother’s discarded dresses and totter in Mommy’s high heels (until they actually need to move around). A crown on the head, preferably bejeweled, completes the sartorial splendor and the miniature Queen Esthers are ready for the day’s activities.

This masquerade is based on an essential message of the day – things are not as they seem on the surface. The elegant Queen Esther is really the Jewish girl Hadassah; the man who saves King Achashverosh from a plot against his life is Hadassah’s relative Mordechai; a day prepared for the slaughter of the Jewish people turns into a day of victory. It is not a coincidence that the name Esther means hidden while the Hebrew name for Scroll, Megila, means reveal.  Thus the real name for the Book of Esther or The Scroll of Esther is “Revealing the Hidden.”

Something that is uniquely hidden in this scroll is mention of God.  Esther is the only book in the Jewish Bible or Tanach which contains no overt mention of God.  His name and His presence are hidden, though easily discerned by those who look.

But, I admit that as a little girl, I was less interested in the theological implications and more enamored with the parentally authorized make-up. While teens and adults dress up as well, sometimes in incredibly clever concoctions, the allure of pretending to be grown-up and gorgeous presents an irresistible tug for the post-toddler set.

Which is why I was distressed to read that some shoe manufacturers are marketing shoes with heels aimed at the early elementary crowd. While Matthew Dairman, a spokesman for the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, sees heels on five year old feet as a physical problem — which it certainly is — surely there is a less visible issue as well. Purim masquerades are only fun because they are masquerades –limited to a finite time and place and easily recognized as a caricature.

Little girls see Queen Esther through a haze of fantasy; a sort of Cinderella. As they grow and mature they realize that the orphaned Esther was forcibly taken from her home and community, married to a man who didn’t by any means measure up to Prince Charming standards and saved her people only through a sacrifice of her own chances for a fulfilling and happy life. Not quite the “happily ever after” fairy tale. But internal growth and maturity can be stunted if external growth and maturity is accelerated. If our society moves in the direction where heels and cosmetics become a standard part of six-year-olds’ repertoire (even for “only special occasions”), I can’t help thinking that the chances of producing authentic heroines like Queen Esther unfortunately diminish.  

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