י״א באלול ה׳תשע״ט (September 11, 2019) From Purim to Poland by Jonah Werbel (April 2019)
People always say that public speaking is one of the most difficult things to do. Well, how about singing — and in a foreign language? And when people interrupt and scream whenever you say a certain name? Welcome to Purim!
Our Purim was practically a festival spanning half a week. A parade, festive dinner, and large party with the rest of the Chava on Tuesday led into Ta’anit Esther on Wednesday. Instead of celebrating Purim on the 14th of Adar like we do in America, Purim in Jerusalem is celebrated on the 15th, along with other cities that were surrounded by walls during the time of Esther (only Jerusalem and Shushan for sure, but Jaffa and Tiberias also celebrate a day late). As a result, we went to a local synagogue on Thursday evening to hear the Megillah, followed by a TRY party back at the Chava full of singing, dancing, and playing games. We read the Megillah again Friday morning, except this time the students had the chance to chant individual chapters. The final Purim festivity we did as a group was a special seudah after the reading so we could fulfill the Purim mitzvah of having a festive meal.
I chanted Chapter 5 on Friday morning, which I found to be very powerful experience. We were all together, supporting our classmates and staff members who took the time (during midterms week, nonetheless) to learn these long readings in a different trop. The support that I received from everyone on TRY was amazing, which made clear how we truly are one close kehillah.
As we read about this attempted obliteration of our people in biblical times, I realized something. Without the acts of Esther and Mordechai, a whole community would have been wiped out, their stories never to be told again. As we prepare to leave for Poland in just a few days, we will be switching from Purim’s celebratory mood to one of pain, sadness, and mourning for the people who were not able to be saved. While the Holocaust was crushing to the Jews, we have to remember and celebrate how Esther and Mordechai avoided a potentially similar event, and remember their acts of heroism. Their actions saved a community, and though we must always remember and mourn the Holocaust, we must also remember and celebrate the actions of our heroes.