Featured in local area papers on Thursday, March 1, 2001. Copyright 2001 by Yosef Y. Polter

A Purim Message - A Lesson in Tolerance

Throughout history, people have struggled with the idea of tolerance and acceptance of others unlike themselves.  And yet, simple as it may sound, implementing this idea is altogether a different story. 

In America - the "melting pot" - we can take pride in the fact that we have made significant progress in tolerance.  And while the work at home is far from finished, we are undoubtedly in the forefront of this long overdue, positive improvement.

The past Presidential election tested our ability to accept.  The controversy was perhaps the equivalent of a civil war, but without one bullet being fired, and without any bloodshed.  This is truly a praiseworthy - almost miraculous, and unfathomable - feat: indeed a testimony to our system, our constitution, and our democracy.  There is probably no other country in the world where something of such magnitude would have been resolved in such a non-violent, even peaceful manner, even though it involved the strongest of emotions and beliefs on both sides.
Next Thursday evening, March 8, begins the one-day Purim festival.  It marks the miraculous turn of events as the Jewish people were on the brink of annihilation, due to the intolerance of others, approximately 2500 years ago in Persia.  At that time Persia ruled 127 countries: most of the inhabited world.  One of the king's top officials, named Haman, had an all-consuming hatred for a certain people who, in his mind, were "different", though they posed no threat to him or to anyone else.  Somehow, he succeeded in getting the king to support a campaign of genocide.  Fortunately, by the grace of G‑d, and through a series of actions and events enumerated in the Book of Esther, it backfired and the Jewish people were saved.

For some mysterious reason this Purim scenario has repeated itself too many times since, even into the present day: The Holocaust, Yugoslavia, Rwanda,&  Why this mindless carnage continues to happen is a question for psychologists, sociologists, and historians to ponder.  There is no justification, however, for such behavior. 

The festival of Purim is a time to rededicate ourselves to the principles of tolerance and acceptance of all stripes and colors of individuals, races, and ethnic groups.  This does not necessarily mean condoning, approving, or agreeing with their views or their conduct.  It does mean, however, that we must exercise a measure of humanity, and coexistence, and perhaps even an appreciation for diversity. 

Let us continue to lead the rest of the world by example in the qualities of peace and harmony.  May this type of conduct usher in better times for all, and may it continue to evoke G-D's blessings of prosperity and freedom that we so enjoy.

Rabbi Yosef Polter is the President and Executive Director of the Chabad Jewish Center at 148 Great Road in Acton.   It will host two Purim programs.  Sunday, March 4, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, and Thursday evening, March 8, at 7:00 pm.  For more information call (978) 929-2513 or 758-8994 Or you can visit www.chabadofacton.com