2013-02-20 / Religion Column

Purim is a holiday that also holds meaning for grown ups

RABBI EPHRAIM EPSTEIN
Congregation Sons of Israel

As our society has become more child-centered over the last two generations, so have Jewish holiday celebrations. A generation ago, if there was one television set in the family room, it was the parents’ program that was viewed. Nowadays, there are multiple televisions around the house and the central television usually screens the programs that the children care to see. When I was on my high school sports teams, parents attended a few home games to show love and support to their children and the school. Nowadays, what selfrespecting parent would miss her child’s sports game? For good and for better, we have become childcentered.

I am a great fan of Purim costumes, carnivals and parties; but not at the expense of engaging the deeper and more meaningful aspects of Purim. Purim is also for grown ups. There are four meaningful mitzvot to fulfill on Purim:

1. Listening to the Megillah at synagogue at night and by day.

2. Enjoying a festive meal with meat and wine during the daytime.

3. Mishloach Manot—presenting a fellow Jew with a food package containing at least two foods.

4. Matanot Laevyonim—Presenting monetary gifts to support the poor.

The narrative of the Megillah is filled with drama, hope and heroism. The young Jewish orphan Esther is led to the palace against her will and is miraculously crowned queen of Persia. Despite her meteoric rise to fame, she follows the counsel of her cousin and caretaker Mordechai, and does not reveal her Jewish identity until the opportune moment nine years later. While the Jews of Persia were fully assimilated into Persian life and were invited guests to the inaugural feast of Ahasuerus, the Amalekite Haman orchestrates the Final Solution against the Jews of his time.

Where is G-d? Where is the pride of Israel? The Talmud explains that G-d’s presence was hidden from the Jews at that time. Thanks to the leadership and innovation of Mordechai and Esther, the Jews of the day returned to tradition and were rewarded miraculously by G-d with salvation, victory and the eventual return to their homeland Israel—reputedly decreed by Esther and Ahasuerus’ son years later.

In a world where it has become exceedingly difficult to find leaders for us to model and for our children to learn from, thank G-d we have our Biblical ancestral heroes like Mordechai and Esther to teach us how to achieve light amid the darkness. Although many of our children do learn about the Megillah and Purim in day school and Hebrew school, it’s up to us parents to bring the Megillah to life.

I want to wish our entire community a fun-filled, meaningful Purim laden with joy and meaning. Purim only comes one day a year; and this year it’s on a Sunday! Let’s make the most of it!

Shabbat Shalom and a Freilichin Purim. .

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