PURIM

Monday, February 23, 2015

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The holiday that's all fun and joy-

 

On the 14th day of the month of Adar, Jews all over the world celebrate Purim, the favourite holiday of kids and adults alike. There is so much I love about this holiday:

First and foremost, it is a celebration of women and an acknowledgment of our immense power and influence.  There was this young, brave beauty who risked her life to save the doomed people of her tribe, put on a false identity as a gentile so she could marry a man she did not love but had to influence, using her beauty, wisdom and magical persona.

She put herself in grave danger by eventually revealing her Jewish identity to the king, begging Achashveros, in a language filled with pain and poetry, to save her doomed people from Haman's plot to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in one day.

She was so much more than just a pretty face: she was clever, disciplined, convincingly logical and irresistible. It may have been Mordecai's plan, but she was the one who put herself on the line. Her success has saved a great number of Jews, who were exiled to Persia, and could face extermination, if not for her and her uncle. She was a revolutionary and it makes me proud, as a woman.

I also adore the sentiment of giving and connecting with our fellow Jews. We are commanded to send Mishloach Manot to one another (and both the sending and receiving of a surprise package, make my heart sing.) This Mitzvah is required to contain at least two readily consumable foods/drinks in the basket, plus whatever else you can come up with. Creativity and originality is what matters, not the grandeur of the gift. It's a joy to my senses to think up beautifully arranged and wrapped baskets with freshly baked pastry and homemade jam, personalised to the people who'll receive it.

The commandment of extra charity to the poor is highly accentuated. Jews usually make monetary donations to their chosen charities, and gift the needy with money and food.

While it requires to fulfil four Mitzvoth, all of these are joyous, fun filled and raucous. The first and most important Mitzvah is the reading of the Purim Story. You can see grown men, women and children, in synagogues everywhere, listening intently to the reading of the Megilah, or the Book of Esther, of course, and tales of the miraculous deliverance of the Jews from their enemies. Not a drop of blood was shed, but the wisdom of Mordecai and the power of the beautiful queen Esther managed to save our people from the hands of the villain, Haman, who was intent on destroying them. Each time the name of Haman is mentioned, people vigorously shake their noisemakers, (groggers or raashanim), boo and howl, stamp their feet to show their disdain for him. This is the only Jewish holiday when a great many people come to synagogue in costume. Everyone is light in spirit, smiling and acting unlike their dignified adult selves, but rather more like their playful children.

Although not a stated as one of the four Mitzvoth, but rather a much beloved custom, people dress up in costumes, to symbolize Esther concealing her Jewish identity in order to carry out her uncle Mordecai's clever plan.

This is the only time when everyone can disguise themselves to their heart's delight, become Superheroes, little Queen Esthers, Harry Potter, whatever strikes their fancy.

The Seudat Purim, or Purim feast, is one of the mtzvot, beginning with Netilat Yadayim (washing of hands) and reciting the prayer for the bread. The meal must be festive and contain alcohol aplenty to comply with the commandment to drink until inebriated, in fact, until you can't tell Mordecai the Tzadik from the evil Haman.

Purim is certainly one of my, favourite holidays. All the little munchkins in my family fully agree.

Because who would not want to be king or a queen for a day.





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