A World Upside Down
Rabbi Cassi Kail
Purim is a topsy-turvy holiday. One of the most important phrases in the entire Megillah is v’nahafoch hu, which means “upside down.” Last year, we honored this tradition through the hilarity of Purim spiels, costumes, pranks, drinks, and carnival games. Little did we know how upside-down this year would turn out to be.
Who would have guessed that we would have spent the past eleven months gathering online in one-inch high boxes or that we would mask ourselves each time we stepped out of our doors? Who would have guessed that we could go weeks without stepping into our cars, that we would home school our kids, or become so computer savvy? And who would have thought that getting a vaccine could elicit tears of joy?
The word Purim means “lots,” as in casting lots. Haman randomly used lots to determine the day on which he would annihilate the Jewish people. There was no thoughtful reason for the chosen date or his actions. Instead, it was left to chance, reminding us that so much in this world is beyond our control.
Much of this year has felt out of control. Our lives were upended, and at times we felt helpless against an illness that claimed the lives of people we cared about, and regulations that restricted our daily lives. In the Megillah, Esther had moments when she felt enormous frustration and hopelessness, but things are often not what they seem, as the Purim story teaches. Just as the Jewish people were about to meet a terrible fate, the Megillah reads, “The very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, v’nahafoch hu, the opposite happened” (Esther 9:1b). Haman’s rise to power had been swift, but so too was his fall. With some faith and strength, our people found more strength and resilience than we realized. We overcame incredible odds.
A year into the pandemic, the tides are again changing. Thanks to medical professionals and researchers’ work, two vaccines with high success rates are being administered. Prospects for the future look bright, and we are eager to turn the world right once more. Unlike the Purim story, change may be tortuously slow, but it is coming.
It is frustrating to wait but let us remember that things aren’t always what they seem; we have some control. We can be cautious, continuing to wear our masks, wash our hands, and keep social distance. We can use the vaccine resources in this newsletter to figure out when it is our turn and secure an appointment. V’nahafoch hu, the world will turn around once more. Until then, let us take a deep breath and focus on what we can do. We have come so far, and we will get through this together.