Our week has been punctuated by a multitude of sounds. Laughter and song. The ratchety grind of Purim’s groggers. The reverberating boom of bombs thousands of miles away. The sound of hearts breaking. The silent fall of springtime snow. Chanted words from the Torah portion Tzav and from the Book of Esther. Sounds made. Sounds heard. Sounds that are confounding and sounds that are barely discernable.
Our megilloth. Five books we read at liminal moments and as the seasons pass. The Song of Songs, a love song, read with the arrival of spring. Lamentations, on the destruction of the Temple, at the height of summer. Ruth, on abundance and loss, read as fall approaches. Ecclesiastes, on the natural ebb and flow of both the seasons themselves and of good and bad. And, in the final weeks of winter, Esther, a forewarning and call to act.
This winter has been heavy; if it is not already here, a global chill seems to lurk on the horizon. And so Mordechai’s words—conveyed to Esther as she sits in the king’s palace, hesitant to act—call out: Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.
Act, he pleads. The risks are real, and they won’t evaporate by themselves.
As insightful as it is timely, Tzav describes the ritual commands of various sacrificial offerings, including one for peace. And while war and peace may appear in opposition to each other, our rabbis offer the following interpretation:
‘This is the Torah of the peace offering’ (Leviticus 7:11). Scripture says, ‘[The Torah’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all of its paths are peace’ (Proverbs 3:17). Everything written in the Torah was written to create peace.
Mordechai’s call from millennia past is to act. And the Torah gives us context for this time of conflict.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.