This coming Monday evening and Tuesday, we will celebrate Purim. Just one month later, we will sit down for the first Seder of Passover.
Each holiday provides a pedagogic opportunity to be as creative as possible while teaching the lessons of the holiday. There is a power in using drama and theatrics to teach not only what is written in our texts, but to experience what is not written in our texts.
The holidays are further connected in that they tell of our survival at the hands of an evil enemy who is set to destroy the Jewish people. For Purim it was Haman and in the Passover story, it was Pharaoh.
Unfortunately, it is not difficult for us as a people to imagine what it is like to have a person or group of people set out to destroy us. We only need to look back a generation ago to the Shoah (Holocaust), to recall a leader whose goal was to wipe out the Jewish people. And even today, with the rise of Anti-Semitism worldwide, we see that there are those who still wish to harm and destroy us.
On Purim morning, in addition to reading the Megillah, we also read a special portion from the Torah. The section we read is about the nation of Amalek. Amalek snuck up behind the Jewish people as we made our way through the desert, killing women and children. We are commanded to wipe out Amalek. That command continues today. We are still supposed to wipe out Amalek. But is Amalek a nation or merely an idea?
King Saul, the first king of the Jewish people was commanded by his prophet Samuel to wipe out the nation of Amalek. But Saul does not follow this order, instead allowing the Amalek king, Agag, to live. Agag is the ancestor of the evil Haman, the villain of the Purim story. Some even suggest that Hitler was a descendant of Amalek.
In the story of Purim, as we crossed through the Sea with the Egyptians giving chase, the walls of water came crashing down killing those in the Egyptian army but allowing Pharaoh to live. Why? Perhaps the reason was so that he could testify to the miracle that took place at the Sea. Perhaps there was something in the witnessing of the miracle that made something in Pharaoh’s brain flip, effectively eradicating the evil that was there.
We know that evil exists in the world. Our desire must be the eradication of evil. believe this can be accomplished through education.
What we teach our students at Bornblum is to find the good in everyone and to help those who are making bad decisions do the opposite (a major theme in the holiday of Purim is ונהפוך הוא, do the opposite). Each morning as I welcome our students for a day of learning, there is a parent who consistently tells her child “Make good choices.” That is what we want in all our students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members, “make good choices.”
One of my favorite colleagues, Jeff Forman, a Middle School principal would tell students “DTRT.” This stood for “Do the Right Thing.” It’s a simple phrase that goes hand in hand with “make good choices.” If we DTRT, then we are making good choices.
As we celebrate Purim this coming week and look forward to Passover in a month, we must begin our Passover cleaning. This year, let’s clean out the evil. Let’s sweep it out of our lives and the lives of those around us, so that we can all make the good choice by doing the right thing.