Shabbat Message from Cantor Eichaker
Pirkei Avot 1:15 says “Shammai used to say: Make your [study of] Torah a fixed practice; speak little but do much; and receive all with a pleasant smile.” Interestingly enough, many believe that “…Speak little but do much…” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Those who would make that attribution would be incorrect by roughly 1,300 years. Regardless of its origin, this phrase has been endorsed by many religious, educational and motivational leaders for hundreds of years. Some will argue, however, that the volume of words spoken, at the appropriate time, carries the same weight in deeds actually performed, multiplied by the people who actually heard the words in the first place. In short, what one says has legs that carry the message down many and through unforeseen paths, far beyond the life of the one who said those words. What we speak, how we speak, when we speak is an intimate projection of our personal brand. Like a bell that cannot be “un-rung” our words carry far beyond the audible and into the uncontrollable realm of perception.
I am often asked, at this time every year, why we Jews have not forgiven the acts of Haman in the Story of Esther. The short, simple answer is that while Haman is no longer alive, his attributes and actions have become part of our global social fabric. Today, Haman is just a symbol of unfounded hate, misplaced ignorance, violent nationalism, weaponized bigotry, strategic paranoia and fatal self-service. We see these attributes and actions played out, in variant forms, throughout history and can even find sparks of these inflammatory actions in our own back yard. We are quick to identify individuals who espouse such attitudes and feel that, once the physical presence is expunged from being an effective presence, these attitudes will disappear. This is, unfortunately, not true. Remember, Moses died overlooking the Promised Land and was never given a funeral hence no physical memorial. We don’t want to create a cult around the body of the person so we can let the deeds and message live and evolve through present and future generations. We see the converse when tyrants, terrorists and hate mongers are removed from society and placed in either in unmarked or slightly identifiable graves; or, in some instances, their bodies are never found.
The ten chapters of the Megillat Esther has a story to tell, way beyond the words. Just like the aforementioned Pirkei Avot, we do not see commentaries actually printed alongside the text though there are plenty of external commentaries published. In the case of Pirkei Avot, the 5 chapters are the only sections in the Talmud that do not contain commentaries. This is so each generation is able to refresh the relevance of the teachings according their own interpretations.
Dressing up like the characters in the Megillat Esther is done to symbolize the attributes we either wish to emulate or eliminate. Putting a name on such attributes is convenient for instructional purposes but when acted out we assign those attributes to ourselves (unless we are in a Purim play or satirical episode). Aristotle is quoted as saying “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” With this intrinsic truth, we can counter by saying that Evil, then, is not just an act but a habit. This habit is nurtured by many acts enabled by many influences and fostered by one’s attitude and desire to express such attitude in a negative fashion.
What you say, then, enhances or diminishes your personal brand. That brand becomes your legacy that will be either remembered or forgotten when those who come after determining your brand’s necessity in their future and the future of others. Whether one or a thousand words, what you say and how you express it will carry the weight or your soul. Whether in contentious discourse, communal study or conversation, or by simply saying “Aye” when asked a question, your voice is a major part of your brand.
Currently the World Zionist Organization is in need of your vote. Voting is one of the strongest forms of putting your brand where your sentiment lies. We provide you the opportunity to vote in WZO’s elections at our Friday evening services and anytime you come to visit us. You just have to ask. Though often anonymous, your vote does count. This coming Tuesday, our community has the opportunity to vote their conscience and convictions. Take the time to cast your brand so your voice is recorded. You make a bigger difference in this world than you think with a simple gesture.
Haman is among us and in each of us. You have the power to ensure that his influence is quashed for at least one more generation. This is one of the challenges of our “Shalshelet Messora” – “Chain of Tradition.” On this Shabbat Zachor (Shabbat of Remembrance) I hope we can remember that our personal brand will be our legacy. Let’s keep the chain strong, healthy and relevant today and into many tomorrows.
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