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Writer-s-Bloc

A rabbi's reflections

By Rabbi Shmuly Hecht 

I love wishing people happy birthday.

Sometimes though, I’ll encounter a student, child, or friend who really can’t stand their birthday.

It makes them feel sad. “I wish I was never born” they might say. Or “what am I doing here anyway?” might be the response.

Well, the Talmud records that when the evil Haman cast lots (in Hebrew, ‘Purim’) to determine the most opportune month to annihilate the Jewish nation (in approximately 357 BCE), he was overjoyed when the dice landed on the Hebrew month of Adar.

It was on the seventh day of this month that Moshe Rabeinu (Moses) passed away, a seemingly obvious bad omen for the Jews.

Historically, better records were usually kept of death anniversaries then of birthdays. Since there was no Google back then, Haman had no way of knowing that the seventh of Adar, was also Moshe’s birthday.

Indeed, because the merit of Moshe’s birth is so colossal, the entire month has historically become the most auspicious 30 days on the Jewish calendar, outweighing any negative omen from his passing.

This triggered what the Book of Esther describes as “Venahafoch Hu” -— which means “topsy turvy” — the ultimate reversal of fortunes. Haman and his sons were killed, his evil plot foiled, and the Jewish people were miraculously spared - gaining a major holiday from the whole ordeal, “Chag Purim” (Holiday of Purim).

So the word “Purim” became kind of like a Hebrew “egregious,” just backward, or “reading from right to left” sort-of-speak.

Instead of going from “remarkably good” to “outstandingly bad,” which (for those who may not know) is the history of the word “egregious,” Purim went from an association with “outstandingly bad,”  to “remarkably good.”

From being the cause of fright, evil and senseless anti-semitic hate, to becoming a holiday of abounding Joy, sharing, caring and love. All because of a birthday.

This unique transformative birthday power should not be seen as reserved for the spiritual elite.

True in Moses’ case, it was still effective even a thousand years later, but the birth of every person marks the beginning of a new divine mission in our universe, and is cause for celebration and transformation during their lifetime.

When a baby is born, a new light begins to shine in the world. The light of this soul’s long awaited positive impact on our world. A light, that only they can kindle. Year by year, as we utilize our unique strengths, this light shines brighter and clearer.

No matter how often we stumble or how broken we may feel at times, we still have so much to accomplish and it’s never too late.

There will always be someone else out there who is more in need than you, waiting to be touched by a thoughtful person like you.

Look up! That person might just be standing in front of you right now.

With this attitude, we can transform “death like” circumstances and feelings, into successful “rebirths” and celebrations.

So on your birthday, study something meaningful, say a prayer and be charitable. Celebrate your indispensable purpose in this world, beginning with doing for others first.

Shmuly Hecht is the rabbi at Chabad Okanagan in Kelowna. www.JewishOkanagan.com



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