This is sort of a three-in-one holiday sermon for your reading pleasure this week. Yesterday was the World Day of Prayer, today is Purim, and on March 12 it is the Day of Silence. I truly believe that all of these holidays stand perfectly well on their own, yet they also tie together rather nicely.
Purim is a holiday that may not have the same amount of press as Pesach (Passover) or the High Holy Days, but it is still one of my favourite mini-festivals on the Jewish calendar. Maybe it’s because it comes at a time when the winter snow is waining, and the promise of a coming spring is in the air. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to dress like an idiot (I do that everyday anyway, but on Purim I don’t get those funny looks). Yes, this is one day that you can make a lot of noise just to piss people off, including yourself, and get away with it.
Now this holiday also has so much relevance for the gay community, that I don’t even know where to begin. If you aren’t Jewish or don’t know what the heck Purim even is, then I’ll help you out. If you haven’t already, read the story of Esther in the book of Esther (as you can tell, this isn’t very complicated) in the Bible. Esther was actually a Jewish girl by the name of Haddassah and she hid her roots to become the Queen of a Gentile nation. The former Queen Vashti had pissed off her husband, Xerxes, by refusing to let all the king’s men ogle her at his party (the nerve) so he divorced her and wanted a new wife—one that wasn’t so uppity and "feminist". Xerxes got to lay the prettiest virgins in the land nightly for over a year (to "test drive" all of the candidates) and ended up choosing Esther, who was the most beautiful.
Esther remained silent about her family and heritage until there was an evil man, Haman, who wanted the king to make a new decree that would allow the genocide of all the Jews in the land. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, had been commanding Esther to hide her roots up until that moment. When he discovered Haman’s evil scheme, he asked Esther to use her "pull" with the king to change the decree. At first Esther didn’t want to give up her life of comfort and luxury, risking it all to save her people, but then Mordecai said, "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13,14).
In the end Esther tells the king that she is a Jew and requests that he save her people, and he grants her request. Everyone loves a happy ending, but is there something more we can take from the story? I look at Esther and see someone that "passed" like most homosexuals today. Unless you wear a big rainbow flag pin or some other "gay" paraphernalia, the general public will not see you as a minority—unlike our non-white friends who are wrongly branded as inferior (by some) as soon as they walk out of the house. We have the option of being silent or telling people around us about who we really are. So the question remains, do we suffer in silence, or "come out" like Esther did?
Purim has an interesting dichotomy to it that I love. First, we dress up and read "the whole megillah" (scroll of Esther), and each time the name "Haman" is mentioned we make a big racket with old New Year’s noisemakers or home-made crackers, or even a pair of spoons. Then we reflect on Esther’s silence, and how glad we are that she finally broke it. On this Day of Silence, I hope to say more with what is not said, than with any words I could manage to write or utter. The day is when you take a vow of silence for the entire day or part of it, carrying a card that explains your reasons are to bring attention to GLBT folk that must remain silent about their sexuality. You might want to mention homophobia, not having the right to marry or even have sex legally in many countries, violence against gays, and discrimination. On March 12, I will be saying so much with my silence—that blessed dichotomy again.
Just as Esther was placed in the house of the king for "such a time as this", I believe you are here in the house of the King of Kings today for the same reason. I have numerous complaints about the "community" in general, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, I love being gay and I love all of you. I don’t want to see us dying anymore, I don’t want to worry about getting fired just because I have a wife instead of a husband, and I want to introduce my wife and baby to my father without worrying that we will all get thrown out of his house minutes later.
I think it is important to note that Esther didn’t break her silence until after every Jew in the land fasted and prayed for three days. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that the World Day of Prayer began on Friday. Prayer, meditation, or just reflecting on how beautiful a sunset is are all ways that we can get closer to HaShem. Some people enjoy gardening, or scrubbing floors, or painting to do that same thing. Whatever you choose as your "thing" I encourage you to do it with a conscious yet joyous effort to contact the god or goddess within yourself. Just like with Esther, doing this will help you to find the strength to help you break the silence.
Here is a recipe for Hamantash (a Purim cookie):
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 pound of butter, melted
1 cup honey
Poppy-seed filling (find it in the grocery store with the canned fruits).
Preheat oven to 350ºF
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Mix in the eggs, honey and butter.
Roll out the mixture onto a lightly flowered board. (This is a very sticky dough because of the honey, so have some extra flour handy to sprinkle in as needed in order to get it to roll flat).
Use a glass or cookie cutter with about a 3" diameter to cut the dough into little circles.
Put a little filling in the center of each circle and fold the edges into the three cornered shape, leaving an opening in the center.
Bake for 30 minutes.
YIELD: about 48 hamantashen.