Laughter, of course, isn’t usually what first comes to mind when considering the Jewish holiday Purim, which starts this Wednesday evening and runs through Thursday evening. But according to Fortytude exemplar, author and Rabbi Malka Drucker, why not?
Of all the Jewish holidays, maybe any holiday, none is stranger than Purim. It may, however, be just the holiday that everybody needs right now. The Sages tell us that in the world to come, we won’t need any holidays except for Purim because it requires laughter to observe it. Who doesn’t need a good laugh right now?
The story of how the Jews were nearly annihilated 2400 years ago in Persia by Haman, the evil viceroy, would be grim if it were true. It is not history but a melodrama that is comically performed as part of the celebration. The evening Purim ritual is not only a Vaudeville act; we’re supposed to drink so much that you can’t tell the difference between Haman the villain and Queen Esther, the hero of the story. This is not what Jews are best known for. We’re generally serious and not into drinking. To top it off, this is our Halloween. We come to the house of worship in costume. I always dread some child coming for the first time to the synagogue and seeing the rabbi dressed as a pirate. (This year I’m wearing red wings.)
So what’s going on? Persecution, prejudice, and exile is a lot of the history, and sometimes you just have to let go a little. For one day a year you say, “Fugeddaboudit.” On Purim you let the world be a mystery that you don’t have to solve or fix. Life admittedly is absurd, religion is limited, and peace is but a dream. Such acknowledgment is made bearable by remembering to have fun, you can’t control everything, and we live in a world of moral compromise. The dark night ends, yes, but even in the morning’s light, we face the imperfection of the world. God is in hiding. Nowhere in the Book of Esther do we find God’s name. In such a world, we look for God between us and within ourselves.
So, find a Purim party Wednesday night, and escape from the heartbreak of the world for a little while. Wear a mask and remember how much fun it was to fool grownups and experiment with playfulness as a path to wisdom.~~~ Malka Drucker is the author of 20 books, including the award-winning-Frida Kahlo, Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, Grandma’s Latkes and White Fire: A Portrait of Women Spiritual Leaders in America. White Fire won the 2005 PEN Southwest Book Award in non-fiction. Her highly acclaimed Jewish Holiday Series won the Southern California Council on Literature for Children Prize series. Another of her biographies, ELIEZER BEN YEHUDA: Father of Modern Hebrew won the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Janusz Korczak Literary Competition and Frida Kahlo was chosen as an American Bookseller “PICK OF THE LISTS.” She belongs to many literary organizations, including: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, The Southern California Council on Literature for Young People, the Association of Jewish Librarians, The Authors Guild, and PEN. Her newest book, Jewish American Heroes, publishes, August 2008. Ordained in 1998 from the Academy for Jewish Religion, a transdenominational seminary, Malka Drucker is also the founding rabbi of HaMakom: The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism, in Santa Fe, New Mexico