A Prayer on Purim
Rabbi Joe Black
Colorado State House
March 1, 2018
Our God and the God of all people,
Today is the Jewish festival of Purim. Today we read an ancient story of oppression, bravery and vindication.
Last night and this morning, in synagogues around the world, Jews dress up in costume, lose their inhibitions, and forget about the problems that confront us.
On Purim, we put on our masks and, for a few hours, take on the personas of our heroes and villains; our fantasies and our fears.
The book of Esther is the only book in the Hebrew Scripture where You are never mentioned by name – but Your presence is everywhere.
We find you in the bravery of Esther and Mordechai, who stood up for their faith – even in the face of death.
We find You in the Courage of Queen Vashti, who refused to allow herself to be taken advantage of and harassed by her boorish King.
We see You in the resiliency of the people who, in the shadow of evil cast by the wicked Haman, stood firm in their determination and strength.
God – even when Your name is absent you are present.
Even when we cry out in frustration, and disbelief we look to You for strength.
In the Jewish Calendar, Purim falls about 6 months before the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur – a day of reflection and repentance – of fasting and intense prayer.
Our ancient Rabbis taught that there is a direct connection to the silliness of Purim and the somber tones of the Day of Atonement.
On Purim, we put on our masks. On Yom Kippur we remove them.
On Purim, we laugh at ourselves – on Yom Kippur we cry tears of remorse.
In many ways, this holy chamber is also a reminder of the gap between these two festivals – between the sacred and the profane. In this place, we confront the realities of our people. We debate life and death issues that shape our State of Colorado and both reflect and set a standard for our national discourse.
Help us to not take ourselves too seriously, God. Help us to see the good in one another – in the sharing of ideas and the sacred arguments that must necessarily occur in the messy process of Governance
Bless these legislators, aides, lobbyists and all who serve on a daily basis. Give them the strength of Esther and the wisdom of Mordechai to cut through the confusion and forge a path of prayerful leadership.
On this day of frivolity, may the humanity and holiness with which we all have been blessed become a pathway to reconciliation and respect.