by: Talia Goldberg, Community Schlicha
I was talking to a friend about Purim, which is one of my least favorite holidays in Israel but it is one of my favorite holidays in the diaspora. She has asked me how I tell kids the story of purim. The versions of the Purim story she’s found retells that Mordechai is the hero, King Achashverosh is very stupid, Esther does what she is told and Haman is the evil one. The stories go on to say that there was almost a mass murder of the Jews but we won, so yay!
She said to me, “I feel like that makes the story so simple and not realistic for today’s kids, and I don't want to tell it to my daughter like that.”
This made me think, since for most of us Purim is the most kid friendly holiday. I guess that's why people love this holiday so much. You get to dress up, we give out candy and get some too, and we love the festival atmosphere that comes with it. But if you ask me, I think we went a little overboard with it.
Have you ever been to Israel on purim? Purim day is heaven for the kids. When I was younger, I dressed up in a costume and went knocking on our neighbors' doors and gave each of them a mishloach manot package. We all came dressed up in our costumes to synagogue, I loved it. Then when I became a teenager, Purim became the night you take care of your friends who got too drunk, and the next day became a pretty large hangover so no one really felt like going out to give each other mishloach manot.
Why do we abuse this holiday so much? I know that we are supposed to drink so we don't know the difference between haman and mordechai, and I know that somehow every purim when I drink too much, I find myself crying (yes, I am a crying drunk) about things I am thankful for.
But how do we make Purim a tasteful holiday and not a giant mess?
How do we tell our kids the purim story with more understanding than Haman was mean and Mordechai is the hero?
How do we stay safe and find the right way to celebrate?
I hope we all have time to think a little during Purim. Purim can be a very special experience. We can be knocking on our neighbors' doors telling them we miss them. Purim is an opportunity to leave gifts of food to make our friends and neighbors happy. Purim can also be a time to let loose and drink with friends and family (except this year, 6 feet apart).
I guess it's a matter of respect for our holidays. I think there is a line between enjoying the holiday and using a holiday to excuse bad behavior. So I wish everyone a Purim sameach which in english means Happy Purim!