- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On March 15, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
I love Purim. It’s my favorite holiday, besides Yom Kippur. Really. That’s because both holidays are connected. The Hebrew name for the one we observe in the fall, our day of atonement could be read as Yom-a day K’purim-like Purim. On one holiday we take off the masks and on the other we get to put them on. I would maintain, however, that with both holidays, we remain our true selves regardless of the position of the mask. On Yom Kippur, we take off the masks we wear in order to see our selves more clearly and reckon with our own vulnerability. On Purim, we don those masks as a façade to act silly and ridiculous, but that is our true self as well.
In all of the silliness, Purim remains a serious holiday. We don’t need to look far or wide to find examples of leaders threatening the security and safety of the Jewish people. We don’t need a historical analysis. The story of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews is a familiar paradigm. Sadly, we are not alone. Today we mourn the massacre of our Muslim brothers and sisters gunned down in their place of worship in Christchurch, New Zealand.
So why do we celebrate Purim as instructed by Queen Esther?
…the same days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor. Consequently, these days are recalled and observed in every generation: by every family every province, and every city. And these days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews, and the memory of them shall never perish among their descendants. (Esther 9:22, 28)
Unlike the Deuteronomy passage (25: 17-19) designated specifically for this Shabbat where we are instructed to blot out the memory of Amalek, the enemy of the Israelites, and not to forget to do that, the story of Purim ensures the opposite. Put on a mask. Tell and retell the story in whatever language and method works. Send gifts. Take care of the poor. Feast. Drink (responsibly). Scream and yell when Haman’s name is uttered as a way to blot it out.
But, whatever you do, observe it to ensure that the memory never disappears from our consciousness. For when we do, we guarantee not only that our descendants will remember but also that they never disappear themselves! We will prevail even if there are those who seek to destroy us.
The story of Esther, Mordecai, Vashti, King Ahasuerus and that awful man,
Haman (notice it is blotted out!) and his accomplices will continue to be told in all its silliness; after all, remembering is very serious business in Jewish tradition.
Shabbat Shalom! Happy Purim!
We gather for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m.! Live web stream with us here. Torah study commences at 9:0 a.m. with a short service followed by a lively Torah discussion.
Share your thoughts and reactions with me here.
Purim festivities begin on Wednesday night, March 20 first with a Family Purim Celebration. Join us for face painting, hamantaschen, pizza, and a costume contest with prizes! Kindergartners and younger will enjoy a fun shpiel. For first graders and older, it’s the time of year for us to retell the story of Purim, while honoring the age-old tradition of being utterly ridiculous…and witness the clergy as their true and absurd selves. We will also read, and misread, the Megillah.
At 7:00 p.m., we begin Purim Against Humanity for the 21+ crowd. Ticket of admission is your favorite libation. Hear and participate in reading the Purim story like you may never have done before! Those in costumes receive extra credit.