Today, on the Hebrew calendar, the holiday of Purim is celebrated. Purim falls in the month of Adar, (or as in this year, the leap month of Adar II) when we are reminded to increase our sense of joy. It is a rather ironic invitation, as it commemorates the near destruction of the Jewish community in Babylon at the hands of a madman named Haman. Haman, was like a prime minister, second only to the king. He filled the king’s ear and fired up the citizenry with hate speech announcing that all the Jews were to be killed on this day. However, one person stood up, unveil herself as a Jew and claimed her power as Queen, to unmask the fake news and propaganda, to stop the impending bloodshed. The king, could not undo the edict of Haman, but he allowed the Jews to protect themselves and fight for their homes and families’ survival.
Our hearts are heavy this year, and it can feel impossible to find joy, when another tyrant is killing innocents on our nightly news. But as much as our hearts go out to the Ukrainian people there are would be tyrants laying the groundwork right here in America, by banning books, by preventing women from receiving care for their reproductive health, by trying to criminalize parents and doctors who would honor the innate being of their trans kids, by trying to make LGBTQ students and families disappear all together by making it unacceptable to talk about what it means to be gay.
Just as a Jewish President has stood up to claim the dignity and right to survive for his Ukrainian people, we are each called to stand up to the insidiousness of the would-be tyrants in our own backyard. While over 62 percent of Americans believe in the rights of LGBTQ folk, and 80% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, a conservative minority has stealth-fully moved their agenda from the national scene to the local and state bodies and begun to turn back the protections of women, people of color and queer folk.
In the Purim story, even though it is part of the Hebrew Scriptures, God is not mentioned at all. It is understood that the Divine works to inspire the good people of Shushan to stand up to tyrants. It is understood that we have a responsibility to one another. We are the hands and hearts of the Divine, called to put an end to war and to put an end to hate.
Before Esther unveiled herself, and took the risk of confronting Haman, she fasted and prayed for the fortitude to do what was needed to protect all those in danger. She could have kept quiet and continued to enjoy life in the palace, safe from direct harm. But she, and we, can only be safe when all – the women, the transkids, the black young men, the LGBTQ families and all the many refugees – share in that safety.
Last week, Shelter For The Spirit pre-empted our usual new moon celebration to hold two nights of prayer services; for the people of Ukraine, BIPOC folk, and LGBTQ folk. Our prayers continue that through sanctions, isolation of the tyrants, and communal courage we may manifest a world free from hate and war. If you would like to add your prayers to ours, you are welcome to watch the recorded service and infuse it with your own prayers as well. May we all find the fortitude to stand up against tyrants. https://youtu.be/2RL3-3APtlY