In today’s world, Purim-like chaos displaces order

Depending on when you are looking at your TJP, this is either right before or right after Purim. Depending on your idea of a fun time, you either rushed to your nearest congregation or JCC for a night of loud, crazy dress-up fun, or you stayed far away.
Every year, communities prepare for the retelling of the tale of Haman, Esther, King Ahasuerus and Mordechai. This story of almost certain Jewish annihilation transformed at the last minute into a miraculous victory is accompanied by screaming children, loud noisemakers, goofy plays, bad puns and, in some communities, much drinking.
Purim turns our world upside down. We act out at temple. We run through the sanctuary, we make as much noise as possible and barely hear what others around us are trying to say. Purim has been called many things, but never a quiet holiday.
One of the commands of the day is to make so much noise that when the name of the villain, Haman, is called out, we cannot hear it above the clamor. In some Jewish communities, his name is written in chalk on the ground to stomp out or erase his memory.
It is an understatement to say that thoughtful communication is not the goal of the day. And yet, I confess that Purim was always one of my favorite Jewish holidays. Something about having permission to turn the temple into the set of an old Marx Brothers movie always excited me. Purim suggests that creating chaos can be a sacred act.
But, of course, Purim ends, and we begin to count the days until Passover. Passover tells a different tale of deliverance. Instead of the defeat of wicked Haman, we read of God’s deliverance of our people from Egyptian bondage to freedom. We tell the tale around a dinner table at a service called a Seder. Seder means order. Every sip of wine, every bite of food and every moment of the storytelling follows an intentional plan.
Our tradition teaches us that chaos is fun for a time, but our mission is to return to order. Perhaps that is why I am a little less excited about Purim this year.
Our society seems to be living in a nonstop state of Purim. Just turn to any news station, Twitter account or Facebook page that delves into the problems of the world and you will be confronted by the deafening sound of escalation. Problems of the day are presented not with the goal of beginning a dialogue, but with the intent to drown out the other side. Dialogue has been replaced by screaming and invective. The goal is chaos 24/7. It’s all very entertaining until we realize that nothing is getting solved and no one is listening.
Purim only works as a reaction to order. In an environment of constant turmoil, it loses its power. And so this year, I seek the order of Passover, the quiet of thoughtful communication and the embrace of family around a dinner table surrounded by conversations.
My hope is that we find ways to speak to each other once again, that these never-ending diatribes will finally exhaust us and give way to a year of true and thoughtful dialogue. I wish this because there are pressing and complex problems that we need to join together and solve, because our communities are in desperate need of healing, and because someone needs to demonstrate the art of listening to our children. But mostly, I wish it because I miss Purim. It’s just no fun celebrating chaos when every day feels like another Purim shpiel.
Rabbi Brian Zimmerman is the spiritual leader of Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth.

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