By extension there is an issue concerning Emor which applies to every Jew. When, how and why should a Jew speak out and declare their Jewish identity to the world?
The Book of Esther brings this issue into sharp focus. Esther, whose name may come from a root s-t-r which means “to hide”, is the symbol of not speaking out. By way of contrast, Mordechai is constantly called “The Jew”, leaving no-one in doubt that he is Jewish. Yet there is an ambivalence, since it is precisely this Mordechai the Jew who advises Esther not to speak out!
Speaking out tells the world, “I am a Jew. I am different!” Often over the years I saw Jews compromise their Sabbath, dietary laws and so much else in the hope that they wouldn’t be seen as different.
In the end it never really worked. The non-Jews used to tell me, “I have respect for Jews who don’t pretend!” In many cases the comment continued, “Why should a Jew hide? You have such a wonderful tradition that you should be proud of it!”
There is a verse that says Moses’ mother was “no longer able to conceal him” (Ex. 2:3). There is a time when a Jew can no longer hide. It might create problems when others find you are Jewish, but trying to cover up your identity doesn’t work.