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HarryPotterPurimThe current wave of Pottermania will probably turn out multitudes of cloaked Purim masqueraders waving wands, broomsticks, whosists and whatnots.

Do not despair; this is not yet another literary review of the best seller. We're not here to engage in magical thrills and tricks, and now's not the time for theological discussions on the Jewish view of the occult, or the struggle of good and evil. This certainly isn't the place to tackle a menagerie of ghastly goblins, macabre monsters, owls, frogs, mice, slithering snakes and spinning spiders, or to open a Pandora's box of Gobbledygook potions and spells.


But Harry does have connections to Purim, and it's not just because the Megillah is written with quill on parchment, or because "You-Know-Who" sounds like Haman.

It should be noted that in the Purim story, it was the evil wizardly Amalekites who engaged in divinations, and the wicked Haman who cast lots to destroy the Jews.

By contrast, the Purim 'miracle' itself is very natural. Unlike other holidays that celebrate supernatural events, Purim follows a natural course of events; Mordechai exposed a plot that saved the king's life, and Esther interceded with the king to save the Jews. Purim shows us that beyond the supernatural, G‑d also directs the natural flow of events.


The famous Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov taught us to listen carefully to life's hidden messages, for all that we see or hear contains a Divine communication and lesson.

Right now, in the Purim spirit and in Harry's  merit, let our fantasy soar and our imagination fly! Let's dress up, pretend and impersonate! But instead of getting distracted by all the high flying sorcery, witchcraft and wizardry, why not focus on Harry himself! What better time than Purim for us to enter Harry's head, get into his frame of mind, and put ourselves in his shoes? Let's empathize with our youthful hero as he struggles to find freedom from the mediocre and materialistic Muggles.


In his humble beginnings, we find Harry confined to a dark, cramped cupboard under the stairs. The orphaned boy lives with his odious and stodgy aunt and uncle, the narrow minded Dursleys, who have no appreciation for his 'otherworldliness.' They hide and suppress any association with his 'weird' background, so poor Harry has no idea of who he really is and where he comes from.

Constantly despised and chastised by his Muggle hosts, Harry's abominable cousin Dudley delights in poking him with his fancy Smelting stick. Taunted and tormented, starved Harry wears broken taped-together glasses and is dressed in ragged hand-me-down clothes. Harry is persecuted and mistreated, and never appreciated for all his amazing wonder and talent, that even he himself knows nothing about.


Harry's worst predicament is not his physical deprivation but his spiritual limitation. Deep within, Harry is endowed with great potential powers that are as unique as the distinct mark of lightning on his forehead. But kept in the dark, he is totally ignorant of his lineage and his background. Many attempts are made to contact Harry, but the Muggles intercept all his mail, blocking any and all communication from reaching him.

But once the message gets through, Harry realizes that he isn't just like any other Tom and Dick. Discovering his real origins, Harry learns that he has nothing to be ashamed of, and much of which to be proud. He traces his roots to find his true identity. Throughout his adventures, Harry explores his past and dreams of his future, looking forward to his destiny.


Unfortunately, many of us Jews find ourselves in similar situations. The pressures of the prevalent Muggle culture suppresses our Jewish origins and values.

Unfortunately today's media singles Israel and Jews out for criticism. A biased world is constantly chastising us, finding fault with whatever we do, and applying outrageous double standards. We are condemned for defending ourselves, and expected to turn the other cheek. Why, some people even think we have horns!

To make matters worse, many of us don't even know where we come from, and are uninformed about our rich, spiritual tradition and wonderful heritage. Indeed, too few Bar Mitzvah boys know to appreciate how the phylacteries Tefilin are our 'sign between the eyes.'

J.K. Rowling may not have meant it this way, but the message is clear. Each of us should take heed and realize our calling in these crucial times. Let us learn to recognize the power and potential of Israel and Judaism, regardless of what the Muggles think or say. By standing tall, free and proud of our Torah, Mitzvos, and Israel, G‑d will enable us to climb out of the dark and cramped cupboard of exile, into the freedom of Redemption with Moshiach, speedily in our days.

(C) 2001 By Rabbi Israel Rubin