9 Adar 2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    B’SD


Removing The Mask

I am who I am and will be who I choose to be, despite the world trying to create an image of who they think I am and what they expect me to be. I have conquered my fears and I am no longer frightened to wear my beliefs on my sleeve. (Though I am still reluctant to jump out of planes.) Although I may often be wrong, my thoughts, behaviors, and instincts are determined by me and are not influenced by external groups.  As a Jew I am no longer beholden to history’s portrayal of my weaknesses.  I have never murdered anyone’s lord, nor loaned out money in a usurious manner.  But even if I did, I would be acting on my own volition and not acting at the behest of Judaism.

In the Megillah the Book of Esther we read how Haman told Achashveirosh, “Yesh no am echad mefuzar u’mefurad bein hamim…,” – there is one nation spread out among the nations. Haman continues by articulating v’dateihem shonot – it’s their religion that causes this difference. Haman’s words are no different than thousands of other anti-semites, but I no longer feel the need to respond to his hateful diatribe. I am proud to be characterized by the Talmud as rachamanim bnei rachamonim –  to acknowledge that our DNA is programmed with a predisposition to be compassionate.  We may be different, but rather than being an intolerable burden on society, we are catapulted to loftier heights. More so, the Talmud states that a Jew who lacks these three distinct qualities: rachamonim, baishanim, and gomlei chasodim – compassion, bashfulness, and loving kindness – should question whether they are truly descendents of Abraham.

I often replay in my mind Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! However, today I want to replace Mr. Gorbachev with the names of our Jewish community. Every year on Purim we say v’nahaphoch hu or that we should do things contrary to how it was always done. So this year, instead of donning the traditional Purim mask and covering up who we really want to be, it’s time we collectively have the courage to tear down our own wall. It’s time that we remove the disguises used to shield our faces; it’s time to stop trying to conceal our heritage and embrace all the magnificence of Judaism. It’s time that we understand that the splendor and beauty of Judaism is what the Hamans of the world fear most.

This idea may help with understanding the obligation to “remember and never forget what the Amalekites did.”  The standing obligation upon all humanity is to never allow the victim to be victimized again. Amalek as a nation may have disappeared, but Amalek as a symbol is still very much alive. The world continually tries to dictate how the Jew should behave. They may try to placate us, insisting that no country or people will ever threaten our existence. They may try to push us in a direction that suits their ambitious global agenda and hope that the Jews will once again be intimidated into submission. It’s paradoxical that with so many countries and politicians claiming to be our friend, that our enemies have become emboldened and strengthened. We are aware that the tyrannical regime of Iran and its allies are an existential threat to the State of Israel. In Amalek we find a personification of evil that lurks in the shadows, an ever present adversary that hides behind their own mask of friendship. It’s time for us to finally reveal those who masquerade as our friends and uncover the charade of the Amalek of today.

Yes, it’s imperative that we continue our heritage of being compassionate, bashful, and kind and always remember the essence of Judaism. But it is also imperative that just as our charity, our compassion as well must begin at home. And we must no longer allow others to micro-manage the Jewish heart.  No longer will we be intimidated by how others perceive right and wrong. It is time that we realize that only the Jew knows what is best for the Jew. It is time that we collectively accept the biblical mandate that unapologetically maintains that destroying those who seek our destruction is actually an essential element of compassion.
Am Yisrael chai and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jack Engel

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