This month brings us the great holiday of Purim. I say, “great,” not because its one of the major holidays in the Jewish calendar, it isn’t. In fact, by Talmudic standards, it really is a rather minor holiday.
It’s great, in my opinion, because it’s so unique. It takes a very common story in our people’s history, “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat,” and turns it on it’s head. Instead of yet another holiday, retelling a tragic story with a redemptive ending, we poke fun at it. We dress up in costumes, drink heavily (according to the Talmud), and behave in as silly a manner as possible while we tell the story, with booing, and cheering, and making as much noise as we can. And we do all of this, typically, as we gather in our holiest of spaces, our sanctuary, under the Eternal Light, in full view of the Ark and the Torah.
Furthermore, Esther’s story is a great one. Not only is it one of the few in the Bible with a woman at the center of it, but it has mystery and intrigue, political posturing, and a gory death scene, all while the good guys win.
At its core, the story of Esther is about being true to oneself and being proud of who you are. At the beginning of the story, Esther is an assimilated Jew, who passes as any other Persian, and is ultimately loved by and married to the King. As the tale unfolds, however, Esther comes to a moment where she can either remain hidden, and hope to escape the danger that is looming, or she can reveal herself and face the danger head on. So at the right moment, she does just that. She reveals her true self, her Jewish self, to the king, her husband, and in doing so, saves us all. In turn, Haman’s true self is also revealed – his evil, anti-semitic self, which leads to his demise.
The costumes we wear at Purim, allow us to participate in the story. They give us a secret identity that we too can reveal, when the holiday is over, and we return, to our true selves, our Jewish selves.
This year, we will be celebrating Purim on March 20th, here at Temple Judah. I invite you all to join us, to wear your favorite costume, and to be ready to get loud.
Lets hear the graggers go, RASH, RASH, RASH!
Happy Purim everyone.