Recently, three of our IJC giur, conversion, students went before the Beit Din, the rabbinic board, and were accepted as full members of the Jewish people on 12 February 2017 corresponding to 17 Shevat 5777.
The Board and I are delighted to join the entire IJC community in congratulating Ronja Juriën, Giverny Hermans and Tony Deham on their acceptance and their accomplishments. We welcome them into our midst as full members of the Jewish community and look forward to their ongoing involvement in the IJC. Our community is blessed to have such committed individuals who will continue to strengthen Klal Yisrael, the people of Israel. Mazal tov. We will celebrate their conversion and welcome them formally into the community on Shabbat, Saturday morning 25 March when the three of them will be called up to the Torah for the first time. I urge you all to attend, show your welcome and support and join in the celebration.
Another celebration is Purim. Historically speaking, it is our most recent festival of biblical origin and in some ways the most modern of them all. The Book of Esther, on which Purim is based, is the only book in the Tanach, the Jewish bible, that does not contain the name of God. The entire story of Purim, which actually means lots - a game of chance - revolves around coincidence. The story of this holiday is similar in broad outlines to many of our other festivals. As the famous adage goes: “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.”
Of course there is more than that to the story of Queen Esther, Mordechai, Haman and King Achashverosh. While I won’t tell the story here (Come to the service on Shabbat morning, Saturday 11 March to hear the telling and join the celebrations!!); suffice it to say that God is only there if you are looking. Like in most of our lives, we can live without seeing anything divine in what happens in the world around us, or we can be open to seeing things with different eyes. These days we can explain most things. So everything around us can be mechanical, coincidence, happenstance or whatever. Or it could be daily miracles, things that make us glad to be alive and inspire us to be our best. In addition to reading the Megillah, the Book of Esther, Purim has a number of special mitzvot, commandments which help us make the celebration extraordinary. Traditionally there is also a Purim feast, which the IJC community will enjoy after services on 11 March, and we give gifts to friends and tzedakah to the poor.
Personally, one of the messages of Purim is that in our times of joy and celebration, whether we elect to see the hand of the divine in events, intelligent design, random chance to something else, as a community and as individuals, it is up to us to share our good fortune and make of the moment something special. We can do that by using our experiences to support others, sharing our blessings and working to promote social justice, so that on a structural level, those who are disadvantaged in our societies, who sit on the edges, do not have to wait for miracles. Ultimately, they can trust in a society that will care for them.
IJC Rabbi Ira Goldberg