March 2017 Message from BAW President, Nancy Federman
Purim is coming. The Talmud says, “From the beginning of Adar, we increase in joy.”
But what if I don’t feel joyful? I looked for counsel to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
He writes: “[T]he simcha we celebrate throughout the month of Adar is different from the normal joy we feel when something good and positive has happened to us or our people. That is expressive joy. The simcha of Adar, by contrast, is therapeutic joy.”
That is just what I need – the therapeutic joy of Purim.
Rabbi Sacks continues: “The Jewish response to trauma is counterintuitive and extraordinary. You defeat fear by joy. You conquer terror by collective celebration.”
In our refusal to be serious, he says, we are doing something very serious. “You are denying your enemies a victory. You are declaring that you will not be intimidated. As the date of the scheduled destruction approaches, you surround yourself with the single most effective antidote to fear: joy in life itself. As the three-sentence summary of Jewish history puts it: “They tried to destroy us. We survived. Let’s eat.” Humour is the Jewish way of defeating hate. What you can laugh at, you cannot be held captive by.”
That is what we do on Purim, he says. “The joy, the merrymaking, the food, the drink, the whole carnival atmosphere, are there to allow us to live with the risks of being a Jew – in the past, and tragically in the present also – without being terrified, traumatised or intimidated….. To be a Jew is to refuse to be terrified.”
Come join the congregation’s Purim events and increase your joy with our community celebrations. The Adult Purim party is on Saturday, March 11. The Family Purim celebration is on Sunday, March 12. And with your joy I hope you feel empowered to act. The Religious Action Center offers a Purim social justice holiday guide to help.
There is more joy to share in April as Beth Am Women celebrates its 25th Women's Seder this year! Join us to raise our collective voices in joyful song and prayer, and to stand together to affirm our belief in social justice and recommit to repairing our world. The Seder will be led by Rabbi Sarah Weissman. Early bird registration ends April 3.
And spend a weekend in nature with Beth Am Women, relaxing and deepening your connections with other Beth Am Women at our Women's Retreat (April 28-30). Our female clergy will guide us through spiritual and educational activities throughout the weekend. Space is limited so be sure to register soon.
I wish you a joyous, humorous, courageous and therapeutic Purim.