Today is October 22, 2020 /

Memories as Guides this Purim

Published in Ayeka by Edna Levy, Ayeka Senior Educator
Posted on March 8, 2020

From my family’s memory: 

My great-great-grandfather Haron Karkukli was struck with wanderlust the morning after his wedding. As family lore goes, he set out that very day and disappeared without a trace — and without even knowing that he and his wife had conceived on their wedding night. Haron wandered far from Amara, his Iraqi hometown. 3000 miles. 18 years. One fall day he found himself in a tiny Spanish town at the market, buying the essentials for a Sephardi Rosh Hashana seder. String beans? Check. Carrots? Check. Apples? Check. Honey? Check. The man next to him noticed — since he was buying the same items himself. I imagine Haron and the local carefully sidling up to one another, quietly: 

Jewish? 

Yes. Jews here? 

Yes! We have nine men in town. We need a tenth for the minyan this holiday. Please be our guest. 

Yes! 

Haron stayed in that Spanish village for the holiday, completing the minyan. He woke the next morning and knew:  It is for this reason, to complete this minyan, that God has brought me here. And so he returned straightaway to Amara, arriving on the very day of his daughter’s wedding. No one was mad or surprised to see him there; he was invited to sit at a place of honor as the Father of the Bride. A happy ending.

From our shared family memory:

All seems doomed. The royal decree permits the slaughter of all Jews of Shushan. Esther,  one of the many wives of the king, is Jewish but has hidden her identity. Mordechai sends Esther a message, urging her to intervene with the king:

ומִי יוֹדֵעַ–אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת 

Who knows if it is precisely for a moment like this that you have been brought to royalty” (Esther 4:14)

Sometimes I wish I had such a clear sign. An uncle to tell me. A megillah to refer to. A stranger in a market to invite me in. A dramatic minyan-minus-one community that depended on my presence. 

Other times I feel solidly sure that I am precisely where I should be, in my own process of becoming who I am meant to be. 

Most of the time I am trying to figure out my life’s purpose and trying to translate it into my everyday moments. Often an intimidating process.

Esther is understandably afraid. This king is erratic and could unceremoniously put her to death for even daring to approach him. But her fear does not ultimately hold her back. From where does Esther find her courage to act? In part, from leaning on her community, and in part, from daring to act boldly. She asks all the Jews of Shushan for 3 days of fasting and prayer. She also devises a clever plan to appeal to the vanity of this king. Esther does not act with certainty, but despite the uncertainty; she is ready to risk it all; she doesn’t know how the story will end. 

Perhaps as my great-great-grandfather wandered from town to town for those 18 years, he also wondered at many stops along the way: 

Why am I here, now? 

Is this my life’s purpose? 

When will I know?

Perhaps all his wandering was a necessary prelude to his wondering, which was a prelude to his witnessing his own daughter’s wedding.

Wishing us all a Purim filled with Patience and Courage-Despite-Fear as we wander and wonder onwards.

Questions for Reflection: When have you felt “called” to a purpose or action? How did you know? Did you need courage to follow through?