Shine Light on Chaos and Injustice: A Purim Drash

This week, on the Shabbat before Purim, we read the weekly Torah portion Tetzaveh. In it, we read about a seven-day period in which the priests, Aaron and his sons, are inaugurated into service in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Torah provides exacting detail about how the priests should dress, and what and how the sacrifices should be made, including how to smoke the sacrificial animals to create a pleasant odor. The Torah warns that the priests will die if they don’t wear the proper attire. It’s all about how to be holy in the presence of God, the ultimate judge.

In contrast, the Purim story begins in King Ahasuerus’s palace in Shushan. He has thrown a 180-day drinking party, followed by another seven-day party. At the end of the seven days, he summons Queen Vashti to appear naked before him and all the party guests. She refuses. After consulting his advisors, the king banishes Vashti and likely has her killed.

Everything in Tetzaveh is designed to heighten the senses and cultivate awe of the Divine. Everything in the Purim story is designed to deaden the senses, resulting in chaos and death.

Tetzaveh begins with a commandment to bring oil to light the lamps in the Mishkan, a light that must burn continually. While the lamp is physically located in the Mishkan, symbolically we understand it to represent the Divine presence, teaching: Layehudim haytah orah, “the Jews had light.” We therefore are compelled to shine light on chaos and injustice and to bring holiness into this world.

Evolve is turning five. We’re celebrating and seeking your support. Help keep this essential resource at your fingertips.  

To celebrate five years of this sacred work, we are designating the month before Purim as a time in which we fulfill the line from the Book of Esther, “The Jews had light/ Layehudim hayeta orah.” During this month, we will publish and distribute materials related to light and Purim.

Donors of $250 or more will be invited to five real-time zoom shiurim with Evolve scholars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Resources

March 21, 2024
Posted in Uncategorized
I love Israel, but not more than Judaism itself. Not more than humanity.
January 7, 2024
Posted in Uncategorized
I so wanted these bullet holes, only days old, to be remnants from a bygone era.
February 16, 2023
Posted in Uncategorized
Why do Jewish holidays and the holidays of so many other peoples and cultures coincide with the shortest days of winter? Mira Wasserman, Ph.D. offers this Talmudic teaching from Avodah Zara that touches on light, the turning of the seasons and ritual. This story emphasizes the commonalities among people and that all human beings are children of Adam, the first human.
June 7, 2021
Posted in Uncategorized

The Reconstructionist Network

Serving as central organization of the Reconstructionist movement

Training the next generation of groundbreaking rabbis

Modeling respectful conversations on pressing Jewish issues

Curating original, Jewish rituals, and convening Jewish creatives

Get the latest from Evolve delivered to your inbox.

The Reconstructionist Network