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.
The synagogue my family attends is just beginning a long awaited renovation. It is very exciting. When I drove my carpool yesterday, the property looked completely different. At the entrance, the entire space was stripped of lumber. As I drove up the long drive to the entrance, I passed by mountains of huge tree trunks stacked and ready to be hauled away by the construction workers.
I’m not sure how many of my blog readers will understand the irony and dark humor I find in the timing of this tremendous sight, so I will explain. This coming Sunday evening begins TuB’Shevat, the new year of the trees. In Israel it is the end of rainy season and the first buds are appearing. Usually, we celebrate by eating various fruits and nuts that are grown in Israel, and donate money to plant forests. It is one of the holidays that link Judaism with environmentalism in a major way.
Chopping down trees on TuB’Shevat? . . . (shielding eyes and grimacing) A-W-K-W-A-R-D. . .