We celebrated Purim yesterday, and being able to read the megillah and fulfill the mitzvahs of Purim with such a vibrant and loving community atmosphere was very special.
Why is the Purim megillah named after Esther, the Jewish heroine, Megillat Esther. Why not Megillat Esther and Mordechai? Wasn’t Mordechai also a hero in the story?
Yesterdays, jam packed, fun filled, Purim party, helped me understand one reason why the singular focus on Esther.
Along with 70 others attendees, two Jewish women, mothers of young children, drove their families for several hours to join. Shannon did a 3.5 hour drive from Leola, and Shay drove 5 hours all the way from Rapid City! They did this all to give themselves and their children the opportunity to participate in the Purim celebration.
As a parent of young children myself, I know what a long drive means.
This is what commitment and dedication looks like. This is the power of the Jewish woman. Like Esther in her time, doing whatever it takes to ensure Jewish continuity, with pride and joy… and even a super long drive!
Several weeks ago at our Shabbat experience we played a Jewish trivia game. One of the questions was “what makes someone a Jewish hero today?”
As we went around the table, friends offered a number of suggestions, ranging from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to IDF soldiers, from Ben Shapiro to Bernie Sanders. The ideas literally spanned the spectrum of Jewish thought and politics. But they were all shared with love. That’s what is so beautiful about our Jewish community. Everyone is welcome, and everyone has a place. It really is mishpacha, family.
But over the past few weeks I had an idea of another type of Jewish hero: Chaya and Rabbi Avraham Wolf from Odessa.
One of the organizations they run is the Mishpacha Orphanage where they care for some 150 precious children. With war looming, they desperately tried to obtain the necessary documentation to secure an exit for the children. But to no avail.
Finally, just over a week ago, after war had already broken out, they got the last birth certificate needed, and over the next few days a convoy of buses left Odessa carrying children, women, and elderly people. Through a treacherous journey that was documented by the AP, they traveled for more than 50 hours through several countries, until reaching Berlin where they are now.
As the head of the orphanage, Rabbi Wolf accompanied the final bus to leave.
But once making sure that every child under his responsibility had safely arrived, Avraham did the unthinkable. He got on a train and went straight back to Odessa. He still shoulders the responsibility of those in the Jewish community who can not leave (males between ages 18-60, elderly women and men, and the disabled).
While others are fleeing from Ukraine, Rabbi Wolf couldn't get back fast enough.
Rabbi Wolf and his wife Chaya are Jewish heroes today. This may be the story of one couple, but just like one small drop of water can reflect the entire sun in it -- so long as it's clear and facing the sun -- it reflects the good work of the 200+ Chabad Rabbis' their wives and children currently serving the Jews of Ukraine. They are the Jewish heroes of the hour.
Let us take inspiration from them.
Purim is next week, and while we are living comfortably here in the United States, we are still called upon to be heroes. Like Mordechai and Esther in their times, and the Jews of Ukraine today, each of us has a unique role to play.
With prayers for the safety of the people in Ukraine.
The months of Adar and Nissan are packed with Jewish holidays and history. At Chabad
we strive to ensure that every member of the Jewish community has an opportunity to
participate and feel welcome experiencing our sacred heritage. We look forward to inviting you to our Purim and Passover celebrations.
On Purim we commemorate the overturning of the plot by the wicked King Ahasuerus and his viceroy Hamman to annihilate us. We celebrate by reading Esther’s Megillah, hosting a festive dinner, sharing gifts of food with friends and giving charity to the poor. This year we invite you to join us for a “Purim in the Shtetl ‘’ themed celebration, featuring our own Klezmer band.
And just four weeks later we will be celebrating Passover. In Jewish homes across the country and around the world, families and friends will gather around the Seder table, the same way we have been doing it for more than 3,500 years since our Exodus from Egypt. It was at that very moment when we became an essentially and completely free people, with our only subservience being to G-d Himself. Today in America, we are free citizens, able to live as proud Jews. But perhaps we may be confined by our personal Egypts, those barriers, often artificial, that stand between us and our indulging in Jewish experiences. What better way to celebrate this Passover, than by experiencing true Jewish
freedom and committing to do another good mitzvah deed, strengthening the link in our chain of Jewish tradition and ensuring its continuity for future generations.
The work that we do in South Dakota mirrors what Chabad does in thousands of other centers across America and in another 100+ countries. Just a few weeks ago, world Jewry marked 70 years since the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson assumed to the leadership of the Chabad movement on the 10th of Shevat, 1950.
At the core of his teachings, is the idea that this world is truly G-ds home, and each human being here on earth is personally tasked with making it feel so. In the ensuing seven decades, the Rebbe’s one time radical and urgent message of meaning and moral purpose has become increasingly mainstream.
Today there is not a Jewish community in the world that has not been positively impacted by the Rebbe’s teachings. Even now during the Coronavirus, the only Rabbi still in China, faithfully serving the needs of the local community, Rabbi Sholom Greenberg who together with his wife and children run Chabad in Shanghai.
So as we sit at our Seder tables this year and read the passage of Rabbi Elazar Ben Azarya “I am like 70 years old” let us infuse our life and Jewish observance with the vibrance and meaning the Rebbe began teaching us seventy years ago, allowing us each to fully live our own personal Exodus and even experience a taste of the future redemption.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.