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No Opting Out

Friday, 13 February, 2015 - 1:43 pm

This Shabbat we bless the month of Adar. In the Purim story, when Haman threatens to kill all of the Jewish people, there is an interesting twist pointed out by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Any Jew could have saved himself or herself by severing ties with the Jewish people. A simple opting out declaration would have been sufficient for an individual to no longer be subject to the decree of destruction against the Jewish nation. Yet, amazingly, not a single Jew in the entire Persian empire of 127 provinces stepped forward to utilize that opportunity. This demonstration of dedication to the Jewish identity was one of the things that brought about the merit of salvation.

Earlier this week I was invited by my friend Igor Cherny to attend an “open mic” event for the Spoken Word Club at Edna Karr Charter High School on the Westbank. Igor is a teacher at the school and the force behind the club. The theme was Black History Month and many students displayed significant talent in their presentations about their life experience as African Americans. Igor shared his family’s “black moment” by relating the story of Jewish persecution in the former Soviet Union. His grandmother was given a chance to circumvent the discriminations experienced by Jews in the USSR by changing her identity from Jewish to Ukrainian. This would have opened up some doors for her and her future descendants. Despite the urging of so many around her, this 16 year old girl opted to continue to identify with the Jewish nation at any cost.

Hearing this story recalled for me the above teaching about Purim and got me thinking how amazingly powerful the Jewish identity is. We are so hard wired down to the depths of our very beings that no matter what, we retain the connection to our Jewishness, to our G-d and to whatever we know about our Jewish identity.

Mazel Tov to the Nemes family upon the engagement of Libby Nemes to Zalman Groner.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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