It is my favorite holiday! Tonight is Purim, the most joyous of all Jewish holidays. It is so joyous, in fact, that rabbis have commanded adults to get drunk and be merry! We read the Book of Esther and every time the villain, Haman’s name is mentioned in the story, the entire crowd, boos and makes noise to blot out his name. It is a wild time. We dress up in costumes, have carnivals, eat triangular shaped cookies called, “Hamentashen” (named after the villain Haman and shaped like his three-cornered hat). As a child I loved playing games and winning prizes at the Purim Carnival, dressing in costumes, and making noise. Now I get to share that great tradition with my children. Plus, I get to down shots of Goldschlager and act rowdy at the synagogue. Really! The rabbi said I should.
For those of you not familiar with the story, I have excerpted the following summary of the Book of Esther from a site called, Judaism 101. I have often thought this story was ripe for a Disney interpretation. It has everything most Disney hits need: an orphaned young woman raised by a kind uncle, a despicable villain, and a benevolent king. Read the synopsis below and let me know if you agree!
The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.
The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people’s, and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them.” Esther 3:8. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.
Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king’s presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman’s plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai. (end of excerpt)
I am all for celebrating differences, and searching for similarities among people. In that vein, I am fascinated by how similar the traditions of various religions. We all must trace back our festivities to the same ancient rituals. Purim is the prime example of this. Mardi Gras and Carnivale celebrations are wild and crazy traditions also at this time of year.
Well, it’s time to go put on my costume and celebrate! I hope you all enjoy the night, too.
My thirteen year old son became a Bar Mitzvah a couple of months ago. After years of study, he was ready to read from the torah and lead the congregation in prayer.
Family and friends traveled from all over the country to share the joy with us—and we celebrated all weekend long. There are some who think throwing an elaborate party detracts from the religious significance of this life cycle milestone, and others (like me) who cannot think of a better reason to bring friends and family together to have a great time.
On Friday night before the ceremony at our synagogue, we had about fifty out of town guests over for a casual supper at our home. After the last guest finally left, my son asked, “Mom, will you listen to me while I run through the service once?”
Of course, I agreed. He started to chant the Torah Service with confidence. He continued for a few moments and then stopped. “Do I have to review this part, too?”
I shrugged. “Why not? You should do the whole thing just like you will tomorrow morning.”
He pointed to the page. “Yeah, but this part is like breathing.”
He ended up reviewing it with me anyway. However, I was amazed at his confidence.
Is there anything in your life that you find as easy as “breathing”? It can be something that you have practiced or studied so much that it has become easy or something that has come naturally to you for as long as you can remember. Share your skills, your abilities. I can’t wait to hear about your greatest strengths!