Subscribe To our E-Newsletter
Purim Spiel II: A Smile in the Midst of Downer Days
The Jewish calendar is filled with a plethora of holidays commemorating events from Jewish history that are at worst calamities and at best near misses, where our ancestors narrowly escaped calamity and catastrophe. Destruction of temples, emergence from bondage, famine, strife — our holiday liturgy often feels like a TV drama where our downtrodden hero just can't get a break, yet everything somehow works out before the evening news starts at 11:00 pm. With all of this doom and gloom it's no wonder our people have excelled in the fields of psychology, both as patients and practitioners, over these last 5,000 or so years.
In the midst of all of these downer days, here comes the holiday of Purim to give us a smile and buck the trend. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Isn't Purim also about the Jews escaping a dastardly plot aimed at their annihilation?" The short answer is yes. But if we look at the facts, it is really not that simple. First off, let's look at the villain of our story, Haman. Not many people know this, but Haman's last name was Happypants. Let that sink in for a second. Sounds awfully dainty, and how much could the Jews of Persia really have feared from a guy named Haman Happypants? Also, as everyone knows, villains exclusively don shiny black top hats and sport handlebar mustaches. Haman wore a three-sided hat and had a face as smooth as a baby's bottom. I mean seriously? A three-sided hat? Those are most often associated with Quakers, also known as Friends, and that doesn't seem very frightening to me. Plus Haman's hat is now a delicious pastry, so there's that.
Next, let's look at the hero of our story, Mordechai. Most of our holidays have heroes with run-of-the-mill, hero names, such as Moses, Judah and Joshua (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). But Mordechai? How cool is that? The man who saved the Jews this time around sounds like he should be hocking diamonds in Midtown Manhattan or baking Matzohs in a windowless factory in Williamsburg. "You should go see my friend Morty; he does the best jewelry work, at a fair price and his matzohs don't taste like cardboard!" Plus, Mordechai didn't just beat Haman, he humiliated him by making him follow Mordechai down the street while Mordechai was at the wheel of Haman's Mustang (at least that's how I remember it, something about a horse). All of this and Mordechai got his niece to marry a wealthy king, every Jewish uncle's crowning achievement.
So this year, as you drink a little too much, eat a few too many delicious Quaker hats, and cross-dress like its going out of style, all with the full authority of Jewish law and tradition, just remember the true meaning of Purim — have fun!!!
Joshua Gruenberg is the rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Yardley.