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There’s an ancient and esteemed Jewish custom of teaching ‘Purim Torah’ around Purim. ‘Purim Torah’ is meant to be humorous, irreverent and subversive, like a hybrid between April Fool’s Day and social satire. Since we couldn’t gather at Purim in-person, Peter Rubenstein has chosen to offer delight, whimsy, satirical humor and social commentary with this light-hearted ‘Biblical Passover story’ about the past, present and future of our community. In it, you can discern several Jewish themes, including Abraham’s journey. the Maccabean Revolt, the Exodus from Egypt and of course, the Purim story itself. May its happy ending come to pass!
Many years ago, there were four brave men, the brothers Joseph, Aaron, Eli, and David who lived in troubling times under troubling circumstances. One night, an angel of the Lord visited them and told them to gather their families and possessions and set out for a placed far to the West to a land next to a flowing river where the corn grew tall, the soybeans formed a thick carpet over the land, the pigs were kosher and cows made of butter roamed the land. The brave men asked the Lord if that was Heaven, and the Lord responded “No, it’s Iowa.” After a long and arduous trek, the brave men arrived at their destination. Joseph looked around, saw that all was good and said to his brothers “This is the place.” The brave men and their families established themselves there and grew fruitful and multiplied and multiplied until the place teemed with brave men. They built one synagogue and saw no need to build a second because all were so happy they did not have to be a synagogue that they would not be caught dead in.
The brave men envisioned that if more people could be attracted to Iowa City, prosperity would rise, the local university would increase in status, and prosperity would soar to a higher level. One night, while talking among themselves about how they could attract more people, David said to Aaron, Eli, and Joseph “If we build a road, they will come.” So they built the road and people were so bored with big city life elsewhere that they flocked to Iowa City and all was good.
Years later, a virus which people and not previously encountered, came across the seas from the West and the East, and people in Iowa City grew ill and some died. A new Pharaoh, Covides the 19th had ascended the throne. He cared not about the welfare of those in the community but about his personal status and the stores in his treasure houses, and he thought the people were not being productive enough because they were spending too much of their time in idle pursuits in places such as Hancher Auditorium, the Englert Theater, Carver Arena and Kinnick Stadium. Pharaoh thought that if he encouraged behavior that allowed the virus to flourish, the plague would become more intense and people would become scared and confine themselves to their homes where they could focus on adding to Pharaoh’s riches. The people flocked to their homes and, as Pharaoh predicted, they turned on their computers where their lives were taken over by his evil taskmaster named Zoom.
The people cried out in despair to the Lord and the Lord heard their cries and he turned to a wise gray-haired man of short stature and a meek voice but who commanded the respect of his colleagues. The man’s name was Anthony ben Fauci. The Lord told ben Fauci to go to Iowa and to tell the leaders of the State and the people that if they would only wear masks, the virus could be defeated, Pharaoh could be vanquished and they could resume their lives. Ben Fauci did as the Lord commanded, but the people were stiff-necked and would not listen and the Lord hardened the hearts of the leaders and no mask mandate was instituted. The plague grew worse and the enslavement of the people by Pharaoh grew more harsh. The people again cried out in despair and the Lord again heard their cries. He told ben Fauci to select three men from among the tribes, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson, all good Jewish names, and charge them with developing a new weapon which could be used to defeat the virus. After many months of hard work, ben Fauci and his three generals took the new weapon to Iowa City and brought it to the homes of all the citizens, and they killed the virus.
The people shouted in joy, opened their doors and rejoiced in the streets with their neighbors whom they had not seen in a year. They wanted to go to their Temple in the prairie of Coralville, but after a year of non-attendance during the plague, the Temple had fallen into disrepair and had to be restored. The Board of Directors sent a letter to all the people requesting donations for the task, and the people were so generous with their gifts that the Board had to send out another letter saying they now had enough money and no more donations would be needed. The repairs were made and the Community prepared for the re-dedication of the Temple. At the appointed time, the people marched through the Coralville wilderness toward the Temple singing Ma tovu, how goodly are your tents, Oh Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel. They gathered in the parking lot outside the entrance of the Temple. Truly, a great miracle had occurred here. Esther the Priestess, wise beyond her years, and dressed in flowing white robes, stretched out her arms and held her guitar high above the people. The two doors of the temple parted, and the people streamed in onto holy ground and gave thanks to the Lord. Prosperity again reigned, the local teams won championships, the University was funded by the State beyond its wildest dreams, services in the Temple were well-attended and miraculously did not exceed an hour in length. And Esther the Priestess saw that all was good.