The days approaching Purim are an auspicious time for increasing happiness. Happiness can be experienced in any number of ways. There are those who draw joy from observing our beautiful world alive with spring blossoms. Others find sparks of pleasure in the small details of daily life. And, of course, there are those who glimpse joy in the increasing social-environmental action in Israel and throughout the Jewish world.
Recently, I have found great joy in a unique Teva Ivri activity – a joint seminar for the principals of Kiryat Bialik and Boca Raton schools on the topic of Judaism and the Environment. The February seminar, a Partnership 2000 initiative, was designed response to the request of Jewish schools from either side of the globe to engage in a joint process of Jewish environmental responsibility.
Why Global Jewish Environmental Partnerships?
- Because the environment has no borders
- Because of the need to think globally and act locally
- Because positive action inherently connects and strengthens, especially when it stems from our common tradition
- Because the global character of the environmental crisis presents an opportunity to draw our scattered nation together in order to affect global environmental change.
This final reason brings me to the Book of Esther. Haman, oppressor of the Jewish people, persuades King Ahashverosh to destroy the Jews using the following argument: “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it benefit not the king to suffer them.” Dispersion and distinctiveness are equated with weakness.
The decree of annihilation was nullified as a result of individuals taking responsibility for the whole. Esther and Mordechai, employed unconventional political action using the tools of their tradition, succeeding in recruiting the entire nation to prayer and supplication: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
Not only the success, but also the victory celebration of the Jews reflected traditional expressions they acquired anew during that difficult year – in particular, solidarity and concern for all layers of society, as is written: “that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”
The Book of Esther taught me about the power of this nation when it bonds together. It taught me about the power of individuals to utilize this special bond to make a difference in the world. It taught me that political action backed by collective participation and positive intention can transform a decree into a mouthpiece for truth and justice.
Blessings for a joyous Purim – one that is environmentally sustainable, connected to local and universal roots, and inspiring positive action in the world.
Director, Teva Ivri