Purim and Perspective

Melissa Michaelson February 5, 2023

Purim is a holiday of opposites: sorrow and happiness, Haman and Mordechai, the lack of God’s name and God’s assuming presence, and disguise and discovery. This theme arrives from Esther’s wisdom and bravery as fate brought the opposite to the expected outcome. This is best captured in the words of Megillat Esther, “The very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, the opposite happened (וְנַהֲפ֣וֹךְ ה֔וּא),” (Esther 9:1). The memory of the Purim story encompasses a push and pull of opposing feelings as we rejoice and remember.  

Purim is also associated with turning everything upside down. We dress up, take part in carnivals, and jest. Joy permeates and despair hides. As our day is flipped, we deviate from the norm; we disguise our physical presence and step into an alternate character.  We create an outside image of ourselves. While our outer being is adorned, our inner being is the same, but has an opportunity to grow, just like Esther. When a day is turned upside down, it gives us a chance to see life from a different perspective. It allows space for us to consider how we treat others, how we react to situations, and our power to act for positive change. Our outer disguise can lead to inner discovery.

On this Purim, as we grapple through the opposites of the holiday and look at life from a different perspective, I encourage you to think deeply into your inner being. Esther embodies a hero who transitioned from living a life composed of disparate parts - her royalty and her Jewish identity - to one whose inner alignment modeled and inaugurated unity for the entire kingdom.  

We all have a purpose in life. We all have a reason that we are part of Hillel. Purim reminds us that we have the opportunity to make the story of the future and change the world, and our community. Together, we can lift each other.  

Through our celebration on this Purim, we reflect; through our reflection, we can unite. 

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Melissa Michaelson

Melissa Michaelson is the Principal of Hillel Day School.