There is a Talmudic saying, Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’simcha (when the Jewish month of Adar begins, we increase in our joy). Well, in our shtetl of Ottawa, there’s an additional reason to rejoice this month. As you read in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin (March 7), Ottawa’s two Orthodox Jewish day schools, Torah Academy of Ottawa and Rambam Day School, will become one united entity.
We rejoice because, for far too long, there has been this senseless division with in our community. More often than not, if you asked someone why there were two schools, they would simply shrug and remind you of the old joke in which a lone Jew, while stranded on a deserted island, built two shuls. Asked why, he simply retorts, “Well, one is the shul that I go to and the other is the shul that I would never go to!”
We rejoice as we will no longer have to shrug our shoulders and struggle to come up with a reasonable response as to why our community had two Orthodox day schools.
We rejoice because, now, when we go to Loblaws, our children will no longer assume that the other Jewish kids they see there are visitors from out of town, as a result of never seeing them in school or shul.
We rejoice because, instead of always preaching about unity, we now have the opportunity to practise it. We rejoice because it is the right thing to do.
Less than two weeks ago, we celebrated Purim and read the Megillah, the scroll of Esther. Before Queen Esther agrees to go to King Achashverosh and plead on behalf of her people, she has a request for her cousin Mordechai: “Lech K’nos Et Kol Hayehudim,” simply understood as “Go and gather the Jewish people to fast and pray.”
Our sages, however, explain that Esther was requesting that Mordechai help to cultivate unity amongst the Jewish people. Esther understands that there is a qualitative power in numbers, and how precious unity is in the eyes of God. Some 2,000 years ago, teshuva (repentance) coupled with boundless unity, overturned the decree of destruction and led to a salvation that we celebrate to this day.
This year, 5776, is a leap year in the Jewish calendar, when we add an extra month, a second Adar, so that Passover will fall in the spring. When this occurs, we celebrate the holiday of Purim in Adar II. However, we also have a minor Purim celebration, Purim Katan, during Adar I. The lesson we learn from celebrating Purim Katan – which occurs seven times in a 19-year cycle – is that, while we have a national Purim celebration, symbolic of Jewish unity, every year, it is also possible to have a Purim Katan, a unity of Jewish people on a smaller, more local scale. Such a gathering must also be highlighted and celebrated. This is precisely what occurred when the families from both schools decided to work together and have one school, even though there are differences that need to be respected.
So members, let us rejoice in our very own Purim Katan: the coming together of two great schools, Torah Academy and Rambam! May this serve as an inspiration to the entire community.