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Parashat Tetzaveh

02/25/2021 03:04:32 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

On Purim each year, we choose to put on disguises and wear masks for the day. The origins of the costumes we wear stem from the fact that Esther concealed her true identity when she became Esther and married the King of Persia. It is for that reason that one of our means of celebrating the holiday each year is through the act of concealing ourselves and taking on different personas. Each year we “mask” ourselves and become someone else. The assumption is that the moment Purim ends we take off those “other” masks and come back to our own natural personas again. 

Each year we have the opportunity to recall the dangers of intolerance and hatred. We have the chance to recount what xenophobia and anti-Semitism lead to. Each year we recall that no matter how hard we try, we as Jews will always be seen as “other” and to some degree as “outsiders.” For thousands of years Jews have falsely believed we could assimilate and thus be accepted by the rest of the world. This act of assimilation is an act of giving up and is a fatal mistake. For when we do that, we do the opposite of Purim. We put masks on every day of the year to hide who we actually are and no single day holiday celebration will undo the damage done the rest of the year.

When Theodore Herzl witnessed the court martial trial of Alfred Dreyfus, he was beyond alarmed. Herzl was an ardent secular Jew and as such he believed assimilation was not harmful. He was a reporter and he had a front row seat for the un-restrained anti-Semitism of what was thought to be one of the most progressive and open societies in Europe at that time. Dreyfus was an assimilated Jew as well and this led Herzl to his conclusion that Jews could never be fully accepted in the world and needed to have a place of their own. In other words, Jews could never put on masks and be seen by the rest of the world as anything other than Jews. 

I want to focus not on the masks we wear on Purim but on the need for us to never put on “masks” any other day of the year. We as a Jewish people need to look deep inside and find the beauty and joy in our heritage.  We need to be able to see that being Jewish is something we will never neglect and never assimilate from. We as Jews need to find ways to put on our Jewish masks every day of the year and shout from the heavens that we are who we are and we are proud of it. Being Jewish is not a mask that we put on, but rather a mask we must never take off.

Mon, April 19 2021 7 Iyyar 5781