For most of us in Orange County, living a Jewish life is a conscious decision. It’s not like living in the heart of a Jewish community in LA or NYC or in Israel. In Orange County, we have to make it happen. But everywhere, it’s the decisions we make every day that shape our lives as Jews. For families with children, these decisions often revolve around holidays — both Jewish and secular.
Next Wednesday night, February 28, is the Purim Megillah reading. This is when we tell the story of brave Queen Esther, and it is traditional for both young and old to wear costumes. There are families in our community who have started the conversation with their children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, about who they are going to dress up as for Purim. Kids make the connection back to Halloween and ask if they can just wear their Halloween costumes. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t because it’s not the same kind of dress up. This is a great teaching moment we can have with our children, and it gives us a different “in” to tell the story.
And it’s why we tell the Purim story. Not just to remind ourselves that we once again survived in the face of adversity (let’s eat!), but that as ordinary people, we can do the extraordinary. Esther is elevated as a role model because she was a strong Jewish woman who, despite her simple roots, rose to a place of power and then, despite her fear, gambled everything to save her people. And it was a big gamble. Such acts of heroism are uncommon, and while Esther had to face her fears more than most, I think that we have opportunities for heroism every day.
It can be as simple as opening a door for someone with their hands full, or as heroic as canoeing your neighbors out of the flooded streets of Houston. It can be modeling for your child the importance of giving weekly tzedakah (charity) or volunteering to host an athlete for a week at this August’s JCC Maccabi Games. I believe heroism exists in each of us, and I am very fortunate to see both small and large acts of valor every day.
It is said in Judaism that if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world. I believe that if each of us makes an effort to better one life every day, in any small way, we are working toward fulfilling Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). Whether we’re dressed up or not.
P.S. One of the heroes in our community is our 2018 Woman of the Year, Ann Miller. Ann has had a tremendously positive impact on our community through her service in many volunteer roles. Her warmth, energy, and enthusiasm are remarkable! We will be honoring Ann at this year’s JFFS Women’s Philanthropy event, Women’s VOICES, on Sunday, March 11, at 10:30am.
Women’s VOICES is the largest gathering of Jewish women in OC and is a community favorite. The Women’s VOICES keynote speaker, Actress & Comedian Susie Essman, is made possible by the generosity of the Albert Weissman and Rhoda Yvette Weissman estate. Please join me on Sunday, March 11, and help us honor Ann and all she has done for our community.
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