Today is a fun Jewish holiday called Purim, a sort of Halloween with a carnival-like atmosphere of dress-up and treats but with a meaningful story at its core.
Purim is a story of everything being upside down. What you think is good is in fact bad and vice versa. Thankfully, the good guys win, but not without some harrowing, nail-biting scenes when you’re not sure if the king will choose good or evil to prevail.
The story is truly every story. We always champion good and want to banish evil.
And in real life, we think we know what is good for us when often, what is nectar in the beginning is poison in the end, and vice versa. (That’s a quote from the venerable Swami A. Parthasarathy, an inspiring Vedanta master.)
This story is every story, really. I have long taught my children that every religion in the world is pretty much saying the same thing, just in different ways. And it’s true.
The triumph of good or evil, not realizing what you truly need, mistaking good for bad and vice versa. These are the foundational stories of humankind.
And everyone believes their way is right.
Today, Jews around the world will dress up in costumes of people and characters they admire and give edible gifts to others. They’ll donate to charity. They’ll stomp and boo and hiss when the bad guy’s name is mentioned in the story.
The bad guy starts out as the good guy, the king’s right-hand man. He ends up dead.
And the reason for that is his own selfishness and arrogance, his desire to rule the world and annihilate an entire people. My people.
We Jews have lots of stories where people have threatened to eradicate us and somehow, by the grace of God, we survive.
So today, as I stomp my feet in synagogue and help my children try to win a goldfish in the carnival games, I hope to reflect on how our story is every story, on how our beliefs are universal and how all people have something redeemable about them.
It’s the least I can do.