Every traditional Jewish holiday also has a modern message, and the “minor” holiday of Purim has an intensively relevant message for us today. In a distant land long ago where Jews were a minority, two courageous individuals – Mordechai and Esther – stood up against a government official who wanted to wipe out their people. They spoke truth to power at the risk of their own lives, and not only did they survive but they (and we) won.

In our Purim story, we are reminded today of the power of our own small voices when faced with tyranny ourselves, or when we see it occurring elsewhere. Historically, we know all about this as Jews but this is a universal story that empowers us – Jews and non-Jews alike – to speak up and act out no matter wherever this is happening. It is why we take personal action today and expect our governments in words and actions both to support Ukraine and act against Russia. It is why we stand with minority groups in so many countries around the world who face their own tyrannies. And it is why we do the same here in Canada, acknowledging and finding ways to deal with our historical tyrannies against our indigenous and LGBTQ2+ communities and so many others. And this is why we speak out to Canadians and as Canadians to address our own ongoing history of embedded and real acts of anti-Semitism against our own Canadian Jewish communities.

Let’s take the Purim message to heart. The rise of tyrants seems to be baked into the trajectory of our human history. We are reminded that our responses need to be baked in as well. Let us speak out, speak often, and let us model those behaviours in our own lives every day, of tolerance and respect for others.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Allan