It is time for one of our children’s favorite holidays: Purim! Why, you might ask? Similar to Chanukah, kids love a fun holiday that includes eating fun foods, dressing up, and more. Purim seems more similar to other “American” holidays, such as Halloween. While it is customary for us to dress up and celebrate that our people survived at the hand of evil Haman, Purim could not be any more different than Halloween. So do not worry, you do not have to hang up your Haman hat or Achashverosh crown, but let’s take a closer look at this holiday that we have all come to love so that when we do dress up and eat those delish hamenstaschen cookies, we infuse it with a deeper meaning!
Purim is a holiday that took place in a place called Shushan. Long story made short, the king was looking for a new queen and a young Jewish woman named Esther entered the competition (under the nudging of her uncle Moredchai) and by becoming queen actually ended up saving the Jewish people from the evil decree of Haman (the king’s right hand man). It is a true Jewish underdog story: the world was out to get us, we persevered and did not shy away from our Judaism and tradition, and as a result we survived! This is why we celebrate, dress up, and of course, eat a lot of hamentaschen cookies!
What is the deeper message of Purim that we can share with our children and families? The Purim story teaches us to be proud of who we are as Jewish people and not to shy away from our Jewish identities when the going gets tough. The story is infused with the values that we learn together with your students each week: betzelem Elohim and gevurah to name a few! Had Haman viewed each and every person as created betzelem Elohim perhaps the whole drama could have been avoided! Esther and Mordechai demonstrated great acts of gevurah-standing up against the king and his evil sidekick and in turn saved the Jewish people!
The takeaway message is this: We will face situations in our lives where our gevurah will be tested. What will we do in the face of adversity? How will our children act if they one day face anti-semitism? The characters of the Purim story teach us that each and every one of us can be a gibor a hero. Each of us has the power to stand up for ourselves and for others: our family, our friends, our community, our people. The true message of Purim is that each of us has the power to create incredible change in the world. While we may dress up this Purim and mask our faces in favor of another-we can also work to strengthen our true Jewish identities and in turn, ensure that a threat like the one in the Purim story-can never come to be again.
Wishing you and your families a Happy Purim!