Today I am fasting. I’ll break my fast with a vodka-tonic when the scroll unrolls tonight.
I didn’t used to take this minor Fast of Esther seriously in the past but this year, I feel it’s a must-have. I’m fasting to remember and honor courage and risk taking in the face of indifference and oppression, modeled by a young brave queen, critical today, as so many women and men have risen to challenge malicious laws, hatred of others, abusive harassment. Fasting so as to focus not just on how the Purim story ends – with a party – but for all the fear and vulnerability that led there, by all those exposed to hostile policies of injustice then and now, my people, all people. Fasting to remember and remind that the deeper message of Purim and the vision of the future is not about winners or losers and victims who became violent abusers but a win win of both/and, dignity and empathy with and for all.
When Purim starts we put on masks (and I sure have one ready for tonight) to become ‘other’ for a bit and walk a few steps or more in the shoes of someone different than us, maybe even one we fantasize on being or find repulsive or hard to appreciate. This is one way to train compassion and move beyond our narrow sense of self. For 24 hours we are reminded to give out extra charity to those in need, feast with friends and family, and exchange food bags with each other and others — all to widen our circle of compassion, build bigger community, cultivate care.
Purim has been relegated to the kindergarten noise and the sexy parties but behind the mask awaits a radical invitation for responsibility and redemption. No wonder we sip that vodka and let the kids play it out.
So today, Purim 2018, I fast to give context to the feast, to curb enthusiasm and appetites, taking time to ruminate, mouth dry, on my part in problematic oppressive behavior and how I, and each of us can be more of the solution, one by one, day by day, for a kinder world, for all.
R. Yitz Greenberg wrote of this: “…fasting is just as important to holiness as feasting… To the sense of triumph and mastery over fate celebrated on Purim, the fast of Esther responds with a reminder of the powerlessness that preceded the day. Before the merrymaking and dulling of one’s senses through drunkenness begin, the fast day offers the introspection and meditations.. As against the sense of triumph over enemies celebrated by booing Haman (it could easily turn into arrogance), the fast of Esther holds up the teaching of vulnerability.”
In recent years the Fast of Esther has also become International Aguna Dayfocusing on the fate of chained women in this all too-legal man’s world, and what we can do to fix it and support our sister and families thrust into limbo because some rabbis refuse to open the doors to change. Another important way to add gravitas, support today’s risk takers and ripple out love for the weakest among us, not with pity but with justice. Just like Queen Esther did, whether she was real or not, or maybe.
Happy Purim, yes! With all the complications, and an easy fast, delicious feast, generous spirit, less me, more we, and luscious love for all. See you on the dance floor, maybe upside down.