Venahafokh-hu: Turning our World Right-Side Up

Reflecting on the experience afterwards, I realized that this was the classic Purim experience in microcosm - “venahafokh-hu.” What first seems terrible can be wonderful; what first seems wonderful can be dangerous; power can change hands in an instant; the world can turn on a dime, flipping and flopping between upside down and right-side up.

I admit that I may not be the world's best baker, but still, I was a bit shocked yesterday when I tried a new hamentaschen recipe and found the dough absolutely impossible to work with.  "Hamentaschen dough is NOT supposed to feel like moon sand! This is the worst hamentaschen recipe ever!,” my daughter and I cursed to each other as the dough fell apart in our hands and refused to be pinched into smooth triangle shapes.  But, after lots of struggle, a sheet full of the cookies finally went into the oven and came out 25 minutes later. We took careful first nibbles, and all of a sudden, we had done a complete 180: "Whoa, these are delicious... these hamentaschen are the best we've ever tasted!"

Reflecting on the experience afterwards, I realized that this was the classic Purim experience in microcosm - “venahafokh-hu.” What first seems terrible can be wonderful; what first seems wonderful can be dangerous; power can change hands in an instant; the world can turn on a dime, flipping and flopping between upside down and right-side up.

Tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate the holiday of Purim, putting on masks and poking fun at the seriousness of the world. We will chant the Megillah this evening -- the irreverent story of Vashti's protest, Haman’s evil, Ahashverosh’s misplaced values and incompetent leadership, God’s absence, Mordecai and Esther’s bravery in saving the Jewish people from destruction. One essential message of this topsy-turvy holiday comes in chapter 9, verse 1 - when on the 13th day of Adar, the day when the enemies of the Jews planned to defeat them, “the exact opposite happened" (the Hebrew words: “venahafokh hu). Just as things flipped quickly for the Jews of Persia, so too in our upside-down world are inversions possible!

These themes feels more relevant than ever in this year. Through the #MeToo campaign, we are increasingly aware that structures of power with regard to gender have indeed been upside down for a long time! This year, Purim provides us an opportunity to reflect on just how messed up it is that kids have to spend valuable school time cowering in closets during active shooter drills rather than learning! This year, we are cognizant that in our society, racism, homophobia and other forms of hatred still mean that every human being is not treated equally. This year, in too many places, power sits in the wrong hands, and basic morality, human dignity, respect for our environment, and peace feel all too distant.

Venahafokh-hu: In this crazy year, may Purim inspire us to use our power to help turn the world right-side up! (And, may your hamentaschen come out great... let me know if you need a crumbly but delicious recipe!)