There are times in our lives when we face deep questions like, “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “What is life’s meaning?” We know as well from experience and from our wisdom literature, that there is a time and purpose for everything – “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
In the coming months, the challenge of life’s questions and heaviness are to be put on hold. We begin to plan our costumes, to nosh on hamentaschen, to swing our groggers, and to experience a bit of the chaos called Purim. We then transition to our Passover seder, which is replete with symbolic foods and is ritually designed to detail. Passover stands in contrast to Purim, literally, as we experience the seder, our “set and ordered” meal. At this time of year, Jewish tradition invites us not to ponder and pontificate, but to roll up our sleeves, to grab a grogger, and to listen to the stories that are paramount to our tradition. They will raise questions. They should raise questions. Their essence, however, is concerned with life, levity, and liberation.
Purim is a holiday of hiding. We hide behind ourselves. G-d hides behind the story and is not mentioned in the Scroll of Esther. Why do we hide? What are we hiding from? Our story’s heroine, Esther, hides her own identity, until she can’t any longer. Her hiddenness is part of what allows her identity to develop, evolve and become whole. Paradoxically, in hiding, we become revealed to our true selves. Real growth, for Esther and for us, requires a sense of openness, vulnerability, and flexibility. While for some, costumes are just plain silly or just another outfit, for others, a wardrobe change can be symbolic of something greater. Real growth is not hidden, and it is measurable. It’s not measured just by numbers, but by the depth of relationships, learning and experience, plus a pinch of mystery, a dash of faith and trust, and a sprinkle of laughter.
Shaking groggers, costuming, laughing, music, story and reveling are all in themselves important in our often busy, hectic and heavy daily lives. Purim is also our opportunity to release the sacred pressure valve a bit in order to help us prepare for our fun, but serious and meaningful Passover observance. Crunchy matzah crumbs, and the lack of bread and chametz in our lives stand in contrast to the richness of Purim’s treats and frivolity. Though prescribed even to the number of glasses, the wine and blessings will continue to flow from Purim to Passover.
Our upcoming and exciting Purim Extravaganza will be hosted by the four synagogues of our highly successful Synagogue Collaboration (at BIJ). It begins with a potluck dinner, Purim Parade, Musical Shpiel and Reading, and concludes with an “Open Bar” and Comedy Hour. Passover this year will include our regularly scheduled services, plus our always delightful and warm 2nd Night B’nai Emunah Community Seder. I look forward to celebrating with you, to laughing with you, and to sharing in the continuation of our sacred stories. I wish you and your family a preposterous Purim and a purposeful Passover.
With health, joy and gratitude,
Rabbi Mark Melamut