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March 12, 2017 7:30 am

How Purim Can Help Us Navigate Today’s Political Reality

avatar by Michael Laitman

A painting of the triumph of Mordechai. Photo: Rembrandt House Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

A painting of the triumph of Mordechai. Photo: Rembrandt House Museum via Wikimedia Commons.

The social divide in America is violently escalating. The whirlwind of accusations between the political Left and Right continues to spiral downwards. We seem to be hitting new lows on a daily basis.

Making sense of this political landscape is becoming ever more difficult — because each side refuses to engage with the other. This general atmosphere of social polarization has also led to an alarming wave of antisemitic acts, which has led to even more accusations and fighting.

The famous verse from the Book of Esther — “The city of Shushan is perplexed” — sounds just right for today’s America.

The silver lining, however, is that confusion and uncertainty always present an opportunity to reassess our values and priorities. The blind division between left and right keeps us confined to our primal instincts — but confusion might be a step towards helping us find consensus again.

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Insights from the story of Purim

The story of Purim took place in ancient Persia, at a time when Jews found themselves under an existential threat.

Haman knew that the Jews were divided, and that he could use this to get rid of them. The Megillah tells us that “there is a nation dispersed between other nations, and Haman said that in his opinion, they will succeed in getting rid of the Jews for they are in a state of separation from one another.”

But the hero of the story, Mordechai, worked to correct this division — and this ultimately redeemed the Jewish people: “The Jews unified, and by that they were saved.”

The ancient story of Purim holds great meaning for Jews today — and for America in general. But who is the modern day Haman? Who is the true perpetrator of division?

Some will easily blame President Trump, while others will blame the Democrats and liberals. Yet beyond accusations and personifications, we could also say that today’s Haman is the mindset of division — the desire to seek power at any cost — which enslaves us, harms us and blinds us from what we are doing to each other.

Changing course

Amid this social turbulence, we must find the voice inside of us that calls for shared purpose and connection — because this is the very thing that will bring America and the world closer to peace and harmony.

Every time that the Jews were threatened with extermination, it was our commitment to unity that allowed us to prevail and survive. Today, Jews must remember this history, and set a positive example for everyone.

And while Jews have a prime responsibility to be a model for choosing connection over division, Americans of all stripes must choose this course of action before it is too late. Our fate is in our hands.

Happy Purim to all.

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