Wednesday, March 30, 2016
A few years ago I attended a gathering where we were in the middle of a large college gym. We were given these instructions. “Go to a corner of the room to talk about your favorite Jewish holiday, or go to that same corner and talk about why it is the holiday you like the least.”
I arrived in the Purim corner and was delighted to see so many people who loved Purim, or so I thought. After going through all the reasons I love Purim that included: hamantaschen, getting dressed up in costumes, giving and receiving baskets of food from my friends, increasing tzedaka, those funny noisemakers (groggers), and of course the Talmudic dictum where Rava instructs us “to get drunk on Purim until one cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai .”
I confess that I love getting a little tipsy on Purim but stop when I start dropping my juggling clubs. I always keep myself mindful to make the drive home safely. At the end of winter and the advent of Spring it is a great time for frivolity. I think there might be some connection between Purim and Mardi Gras.
I was shocked when the majority of the people in my Purim group disliked Purim for many of the same reasons that I loved it. They didn’t like the noisemakers, the costumes, the public displays of drunkenness, and especially Chapter 9 of the Megillah Esther where “they disposed of their enemies, killing 75,000 of their foes; but they did not lay hands on the spoil.”
In the eyes of the Purim detractors Purim is a holiday of drunkenness, celebrating a blood thirsty victory over a whole lot of people. I have always wondered how the Jews quickly changed from victims to the aggressive defenders that were able to exact such damage. A close reading of the Megillah explains that Mordechai had been promoted to the #2 spot in the kingdom and not only gave the Jews permission to defend themselves, but also gave them needed assistance to push back against the murderous thugs.
It gave me pause this year as I entered the traditional megillah reading to find not a whisp of alcohol. Those in the know told me that tomorrow morning would be the real wild Purim. So I dressed up in my costume and waited for the schnapps to come around. It never came.
The next night at the shul in Westfield the alcohol was on the bima.
I invited everyone up to make a lchayim and we proceeded to have a little schnapps.
Ps The Vodka that I used had been sitting in my basement for the past 3 years, unopened.