Don’t expect to see me in a bodysuit and golden cuffs. And apologies for that image. Yet, Wonder Woman, a symbol of women empowerment, is always fused for me with the story of Purim. Strong women feature prominently in Vashti, for refusing to be objectified by Achashverosh any longer, and in Esther (whose name contains the root for “hidden”), for finding her voice, no longer hiding her religion from her husband, and standing up for her Jewish community.
Looking beyond the female characters of the story, there is a larger theme of self-identification. We learn Haman hated Mordechai, for refusing to bow to him, leading us to infer that many Jews did. I found many articles that spoke of the assimilation of Jews in Persia during this period. But an interesting thing happened following Haman’s decree. Rather than causing Jews to further hide their identity in order to save themselves, the decree served as a catalyst to drive Jews back to self-identify as Jews and a part of the Jewish community.
HaShem’s name never appears in the Megillah. And, so, the Jews choosing Him in this story, by finding their way back to their faith, with no overt miracles, becomes even more powerful. That He is hidden throughout the story also provides us an explanation for why Purim is a holiday of masks. But while Purim is celebrated hidden behind masks and costumes, its customs (not costumes) uncover our full community through the mitzvah of gifts for the poor. We must ensure that all the people who comprise our village, even those who are sometimes hidden from us, through their choice or ours, are able to feast on Purim.
Purim and Yom Kippur, while, on the surface, as different as two holidays can be, each provides us opportunities for enlightenment and self-discovery in its own way. Even their names, Purim and Yom K’Purim (a day like Purim), create a connection between them. Yom Kippur is seen as the ultimate day of self-reflection and introspection, while Purim is seen as the ultimate day of community and partying. To get through life, we need a balance of both. We need to learn who we are as individuals and work on our personal connection with HaShem. But, even (especially!) when He is hidden from us, we must continue that work, and remember that our survival requires more than a collection of Jewish individuals. It requires a true community, connected through struggle and through celebration, through shared traditions, tragedies, and simchas.
And so, this Purim, whether you are Esther, Vashti, or Wonder Woman, we wish you abundant joy and jubilation from the knowledge that you are part of our village and that we are so thankful that you are.
Netta, Meirav, and Michal