And the young shall lead

By March 1, 2020 May 17th, 2020 Rabbi Tzemah's Blog

Purim, the holiday of hilarity is coming up in a week and a half. One of the ideas that Purim celebrates is the idea of turning things upside down, of celebrating irony. The Book of Esther, wherein the traditional story of Purim is narrated, tells how Esther and Mordecai turned the tables on Haman, by manipulating a drunk all-powerful monarch. The Jews who were threatened with annihilation become the most powerful nationality of the Persian empire. This is of course completely ahistorical, but the idea of turning things upside can be a critical one.

This past Saturday, my family and I were guests at a friends house. As any family with small children, we came laden with diaper bags, snacks and toys. When we were putting things down, our Seventh Generation baby wipes slipped to the ground, and the sweet precocious five year old daughter of our friends asked what they were. I was fairly surprised at the question, since this little girl had a baby brother, but I always enjoy engaging young children in conversation, and answered that they were baby wipes. This five year old proceeded to give me a lecture on how harmful wipes were to the environment, and how her family used rags instead, and that she could give me some if I needed.

I was really moved by this conversation.

We accept the idea that the older people with life experience should lead, and I do believe that there is wisdom in that. But on Purim, the holiday where we turn things upside down, we can acknowledge the necessity of listening to the voices of the young on the environment and be led by their earnest youthful energy. It will be their world longer than it will be ours.