Rabbi Yuval Cherlow
Rabbi Yuval CherlowEliran Baruch

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, the director of the Coalition of Religious Organizations for Mental Health, has issued a special ruling as to how the holiday of Purim should be celebrated in light of the war.

The ruling was necessitated by the many families who have experienced a loss over the last few months, and an increase in the number of people with mental health challenges. It comes as a prelude to the conference “The Courage to Talk About It - Mental Health Challenges During the War.”

“Purim will be the first large, significant communal event in which the war will have had a significant effect. There is no community that is not considering how to celebrate this year, and how to achieve the dual objectives of not allowing our enemies to defeat our way of life and understanding that we cannot celebrate as we have in past years,” Rabbi Cherlow begins.

“It seems that the appropriate way to do this is to walk both paths, celebrating Purim and at the same time being sensitive. We need to reduce some things, forfeit non-essential affairs, and in particular, focus on the meaningful, internal aspects of Purim.”

He added that congregations should prepare for Purim in a number of different ways, including minimizing the tradition of using noisemakers during the reading of the Book of Esther in a manner that would cause pain to those suffering PTSD from combat service, giving special treatment for those delivering the traditional gifts of food and the Purim feast to bereaved families, and taking a communal approach to the commandment of giving charity that focuses on those who have lost their main source of income.

Rabbi Cherlow concluded by addressing the growing number of individuals facing mental health challenges. “We must be aware of mental health patients and their families, of PTSD, and of heartbreak. This is true not only within each congregation, which provides a support framework, but also to that of all of our society, and all those dealing with these challenges. This will give a special meaning this year to the verse “Go, gather together all the Jews” (Esther 4:16). I hope that we see God's hidden kindness and true unity for the entire nation.”