So Purim is coming in a couple of weeks, the Jewish festival of frivolity, masquerade, and cookies. Everything is turned on its head and it’s time to have some fun. The Purim story is a nearly classic melodrama with the characters of the villain, the foolish old man, the hero, and the heroine.
Much of the suspense of the story surrounds the heroine, Queen Esther. She hides her true identity as a Jew and ‘passes’ as a Persian in order to marry King Ahasuerus. At the critical point in the story, Esther reveals that she is a Jew in order to save her people from destruction.
This year, I’m doing some free-wheeling thinking about what is hidden and what is revealed. For so many reasons, we often hide our true selves behind a mask of what is acceptable. Perhaps we are expected to play a particular role in our families – the good daughter, the black sheep, the devoted mother, the loving wife, the wise older sister, and so on. Perhaps there are expectations in our jobs that we are paid to fulfill. We may be very invested in playing a role, especially if that role represents safety, sustenance, love. Society has expectations of ‘proper’ behavior and demeanor; so do our families, friends, and colleagues.
Living true to ourselves, reflecting on the outside what is on the inside, is a risk. For Queen Esther, that risk was death. For us today, it can feel like that, too. Sometimes taking the risk and showing our true selves means we have to go it alone. Other times, it means fulfillment and new challenges.
My vision of the future is not yet clear, but I see that the current paradigm of Jewish life is shifting. 30 years ago, when I decided to become a rabbi, I was pretty sure I knew what that meant. Now I’m no longer sure, especially after reading this article http://m.forward.com/articles/170659/the-st-century-rabbi. It’s time to be strong, even if we feel weak. It’s time to be courageous, even though we feel afraid. It’s time to love ourselves enough, both personally and communally to come out, to come clean, to claim our power anew. I’m not sure yet where this is all going, but I’m sure that showing the world who I am makes the world a better place and makes me more open to the possibilities that are out there.
Rabbi Wendy Spears is a community rabbi in Los Angeles. Find her at http://www.rabbiwendy.com