As celebrations go underway for the Jewish holiday of Purim, it’s hard to remain wholeheartedly joyous this year when on the other side of the world, the innocent civilians of Ukraine are fearing for their very lives. Beyond the funny costumes and delicious food, Purim contains a multitude of contextually profound lessons about the fundamental notions of freedom, good and evil, and the human destiny, and it’s difficult not to look past these key themes which hold deep significance and resonance with the war in Ukraine.
One of the key phrases of Purim is ‘Venahafochu’ (it was turned upside down). In Megillat Esther, we read about how Esther and Mordechai were able to reverse the murderous decree envisioned by the evil Haman. She was ultimately able to save the Jewish nation from their demise whilst also getting Haman himself hanged on the very same gallows he built for Mordechai.
Two weeks into the war, and the Ukrainians have surprised the world with their tremendous courage in resisting the powerful Russian onslaught. Russia boasts the second most powerful military in the world and yet often their tacts have appeared strategically incompetent and lacklustre, whereas the resolve of the Ukrainian people and their global support has only increased.
One of the more famous and uplifting videos to emerge from this crisis is of the Ukrainian leadership standing in unity as they declare their determination to “defend our independence.” Jewish president Zelenesky has professed on multiple occasions his refusal to flee from the war, pledging his life to resist the tyrannical oppression of the Russians. So too, Esther faces a similar choice. When she is informed that the Jews are all condemned to be killed, she still has the option to hide her Jewish faith and save herself and yet she unmasks her identity, saving both herself and the Jewish people.
This year, whilst it is still a mitzvah to celebrate with joy and revel in the victory our nation experienced in the face of adversity, it is an even bigger mitzvah to do all that we can to ensure that safety and civility of those on the other side of the world. Whether it involves donating money or raising awareness, all actions, big and small can contribute greatly.
Adam is the Jewish Engagement Officer for NSW