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Tradition & Innovation

The Presence of an Absence

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
stone that reads the word remember

There is a dark side to Purim, that upside-down, downside-up festival of masks and laughter. To innoculate us in advance against the break-through of that dark side, the rabbis long ago prescribed that the day before Purim would be the Fast of Esther, drawing us from dawn to dusk into a world of inner contemplation. In a moment, below, you will see an invocation I propose for the Fast of Esther, to strengthen its healing in our day.

Yet the dark side broke out 25 years ago and again in the last ten days.

On Purim twenty-five years ago, a follower of the racist and murderous “Rabbi” Meir Kahane murdered 29 Muslims prostrate in prayer in the Tomb of Avraham/Ibrahim/Abraham, our shared Father and Founder. The Kahanist murderer chose Purim quite deliberately, for reasons we will explore below. 

Just this past week, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel honored the followers of Kahane by greatly easing their path for election to the Knesset.

I intend to join in the Fast of Esther this year on March 20, the day before Purim, and I invite you to join in fasting in sorrow for the way in which our own tradition is streaked with blood:  And I suggest that we begin the Fast by chanting this Vision, this Hazon, that I share with you. 


The Presence of an Absence 

And then appeared Darkness,
Her Head wrapped in mourning,
Her tallit all black,
Her Place only Absence,
Her Voice but a Silence,
Nistar b'Nistar:

”When Esther came hidden
In the name of one hiding,
She cried out to Me
To emerge from My Mystery.

“So I came to defend you,
My people beloved;
I strengthened your hand
to beat back your foes;
But then you betrayed Me.
For your hand became frenzied,
You struck down the harmless,
You struck down My children
While they reached out to Me.

“On the day of rejoicing
You hollowed My Name.
In My Own Tree of Life,
You hollowed out life,
left only a mocking
Pretense of My Self.

“And I see—yes, I watch—
That in days still to come
Your deeds will give warrant
To a child of your children,
To murder your cousins,
The children of Ishmael,
The children of Abraham,
In the Place of his grave,
On this day of rejoicing.

“So My Name I withdraw—
Yes, My Name will be hidden,
Nistar b'Nistar;

“For I will not permit you
to call out from this Scroll
My Name on this day.

“Yet I teach you that Purim,
Alone of the seasons,
Will continue beyond
the time of Messiah.

“On the day that both families
of Abraham's offspring
turn away from their murders,
their killing each other,
on that day will my Name
take its Place in the Scroll.

“On that day Purim
and Yom Ha’K'Purim
at last will be one.

“On that day, at last,
A Purim will lead you
And light up your way
to the Days of Messiah.

“On that day all the nations
will laugh and will dance,
will turn robes of power
into masquerade mirth;
will turn every gun
to a clackety grogger.

“On that day will My Name
Take Its Place in the Scroll
In letters of Light.”


Republished with permission from The Shalom Center.

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