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Purim: Joy in the Midst of Uncertainty

The story of Purim is a classic account of our people's confrontation with brute antisemitism.
Shalom Hartman Institute Founder Rabbi Prof. David Hartman z”l was a leading thinker among philosophers of contemporary Judaism and an internationally renowned Jewish author. As part of his unique vision to deal with the challenges of Judaism in the modern world, Rabbi Prof. David Hartman founded the Shalom Hartman Institute in 1976 in honor of his father. He was a man who is with us no more A thinker, teacher, and lover of mankind Our

Many years ago, SHI Founder Rabbi Prof. David Hartman wrote a lengthy essay about Purim which he distributed to small groups of friends of the Institute. Senior Fellow Noam Zion saved a copy of the essay, which has been scanned for digital use.

From the opening paragraph:

The story of Purim is a classic account of our people’s confrontation with brute anti-Semitism. Our bodies and not only our spirit were threatened with extinction. Nevertheless, Haman’s genocidal scheme was not realized.

Read David Hartman’s essay, Purim: Joy in the Midst of Uncertainty

Also enjoy these comments from Rabbi Hartman on Purim:

  • On Purim we make contact with the child’s unselfconscious joy of life. And in making contact with this child-like joy of life…we discover a sensitivity to the needs of others born of the celebration of life. On Purim, the poor experience the responsiveness of a world not dominated exclusively by the exploits of Haman. On Purim, the poor may renew their Messianic hope as a result of their experiencing the outstretched hand of human compassion liberated by the joy of life….Purim signifies the dream that one day we will live in a world in which the passion for life will make us responsive to all human beings and that in place of their cynical demonic yearnings for power, men will accept each other’s differences and affirm their common love of life per se with joy.
  • The celebration of life on Purim as expressed in the temporary suspension of the anxiety caused by the ever-present Haman’s of history, the lighthearted humor of “Purim Torah,” the flights of imagination expressed in intellectually “playing” with the authoritative texts of the tradition, the masquerading and consequent [blurring] of the conventional border between appearance and reality – all these features of Purim are joined together with the norm of undiscriminating tzedakah on Purim.


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