Extra Time to Plan Ahead

An extra Adar has got some of us planning for Pesach even earlier. With a few extra weeks to get things done, we can perhaps plan more calmly for the upcoming festival and all it entails. At the very least, things like foil and paper products can be stockpiled in ample quantities before the last-minute crush.

It’s like when I go to the bank a day or two before Purim and ask for half-dollars and two-dollar bills. “We’re all out,” they tell me, as I lament my tardiness in preparing. Everyone else thought of it first. Maybe I ought to plan ahead also and be able to get what I want for the holiday. These are great ideas, but I think I have a better one.

Avoid the Holiday Rush – Do Teshuvah Now!

A friend of mine shared a picture some years ago during Elul. It said, “Avoid the holiday rush – do Teshuvah (repent) now!” It was a cute, tongue-in-cheek way of saying that it makes sense to do Teshuvah today, which was suggested by Chazal (our Sages). They told us to repent one day before our deaths. Of course we don’t know when that will be, and thereby all our days would be spent in Teshuvah and Ma’asim Tovim (good deeds).

Well, Yom Kippur is a ways off, but you know what’s approaching at lightning speed? Purim! Most of us think of Purim as a time when we need to prepare our Mishloach Manot (Purim food gifts), our seudot (purim parties), and maybe our tzedakah (charity). But there’s another aspect to Purim we must consider seriously, especially now.

Even as I sit here at my computer, working to inspire and enlighten my readers, I find myself assaulted with worrisome things. At least, I did, until I turned off the news notifications Microsoft was popping up on my computer.

Everything is on Account of the Jewish People

The headlines of the world are seemingly revolving almost exclusively around Israel and Gaza. Most people probably couldn’t find Gaza on a map, maybe not even Israel, but this conflict is a tremendous thorn in the side of the whole world. People don’t care this much about Russia and the Ukraine, and they certainly don’t care about atrocities of man against man in other parts of the world.

Only the Jew takes center stage on the world scene, and the amount of ignorance out there is shameful. Out of thirty headlines, perhaps four are about something other than how Israel is mistreating innocent people. It’s like the build-up to Purim, when people around the world were excitedly waiting for the moment when they could be rid of this problem once and for all.

This tells me that, as Chazal say, “Hakol b’shvil Yisrael – everything is on account of the Jewish People.” My daughter at college was stopped by a non-Jewish student. “What’s the deal with Israel targeting innocent civilians?” as if Netanyahu has a weekly Zoom-call with my daughter to get her strategic insights. She didn’t bother explaining as he wasn’t really asking a question. He had all the information he wanted, and so do most of the people in the world. They have an opportunity to hate us for a reason, so they take advantage of it.

While at first, I’ll admit, I found these headlines to be very upsetting, and indeed, I did turn them off so I don’t get interrupted or distracted by them, they are also making a very compelling case for us to get ready for Purim as they were in Shushan.

Unite the Jews and Repent

When the Jews partook of Achashveirosh’s meal, they argued that diplomacy was the way to go. They felt education was necessary to explain why Hamas’s – I mean, Haman’s – hatred was misplaced. But in the end, nothing worked except what Esther suggested: Unite the Jews and repent.

And that’s what I’m suggesting we do. Not on Purim, not a week before… NOW. Focus on yourself and think how you can come closer to Hashem. It doesn’t need to be massive, because Hashem (God) says, “Make Me an opening the size of the eye of a needle, and I will open it wide like the entrance of a palace.” Find one way to turn towards your Creator, and think lovingly about how He has always cared for you. Recognize that He, alone, can turn this topsy-turvy world right-side up again.

He, alone, can bring about the peace we desire, the true cease-fire amongst all peoples. And the way to do it is by returning to Him. But there’s a catch:

He doesn’t want us to come alone. We can’t do Teshuvah and expect to be welcomed home if we try to keep any of our brothers and sisters out. We have to want everyone there together, and accept our brethren with the differences of opinion and the shortcomings. Leave that to Hashem to worry about. We’re all together in the danger, so we all need to be together in the salvation. Then, Hashem will save us and redeem us as He did in the times of Mordechai and Esther, and in the times of Moshe and Aharon. Only this time, it will be permanently. They were family, and we are family. The sooner we realize that, the better off, and truly able to rejoice, we will be.

By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz

Rabbi Gewirtz (Operation Inspiration) welcomes comments and feedback. Write to him at info@JewishSpeechWriter.com to share your thoughts. You never know when you may be the lamp that enlightens someone else.

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