Growing up and attending Hebrew school I remember when it was the Jewish month of Adar and the Hebrew school teachers would tell us, “Be Happy, It’s Adar.” This is the month that the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Purim. It is a time of gaiety and celebration, as we tell the story of the Jewish people and their triumph over the wicked Haman who sought to destroy us. The holiday, which begins Saturday evening, has several mitzvot attached to it including hearing the story or Megillah read, giving gifts of food to friends and family, and helping in the distribution of charitable donations either money or food to two poor people.
I believe I have written about this holiday every year since I began this blog. There was one post that I shared about the custom of mishloah manot giving gifts to friends and another where I told about how our community does a pots and pans collection as part of our Purim celebration and a third post where I shared the story of our synagogue’s traditional Hamantaschen fundraiser.
However, this year I have to say I am struggling to feel particularly happy this month or even entering this joyous holiday. There has been so much devestation this week in Japan and the difficult news stories continue to overwhelm me. In addition, last Friday in Israel there was a horrific killing of five members of the Fogel family in their home in Itamar.
The only upside I can see is that at any time of catastrophe people do surface and become heroic in their own right. A grocery shop owner named Rami Levi, who owns one of the larger supermarket chains in Israel visited the Fogel family during their shiva, bringing food for the family and guests. He told the family that he is committed to delivering food and stocking their family home until the youngest orphan turns 18 years old.
In Japan, some of the heroes are the workers who have remained on at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant risking their own lives to continue to do what they can to prevent a further catastophe.
In light of these events across the world, it’s hard to know what we can to do that will really make any difference. Focusing on the bad news has never been a strategy of mine and looking for the good in these dark situations is something I prefer to do. But this time, probably due to the magnitude and distress of these two situations it’s been harder.
I know I can give money, of course, and will use the holiday of Purim and the mitzvah of giving money to do just that, but somehow that doesn’t feel like enough? It is usually unclear what the best thing to do in such a catastrophic situation, but I am beginning to wonder if that is how life is. We can not control the outcome of our lives. There will be difficult and dark times and there will be amazing times filled with happiness. We just don’t know when our lives can be altered forever. So although I might not feel as happy as usual while delivering this year’s mishaloch manot and celebrating Purim, I will do my best to make sure to continue to look for whatever ways I can to make a difference. That is all any of us can do.