Friday, March 1, 2013

Facades of Purim

Purim can be an enigmatic time.  There is certainly a measure of revelry.  We wear costumes.  I thought about coming as Zaitar the Eunuch with  a necklace of my Prader Orchidometer and a packet of Androgel but our home was observing shiva for my mother-in-law so a more somber approach prevailed for me this year.  While we wear masks, we get drunk which can unmask thoughts, as many of us in the Jewish community learned from Hollywood icon Mel Gibson a few years back.

It's a holiday for kids.  At some shuls, including one I once attended, there was a program for children with a highly abridged Megillah and a small group of retirees who met in another room to hear the story of Purim in its entirety.  At my congregation we are mixed together which is as I think it should be.  It can be too easy to set aside some of the essence of the festival if it allowed to compete with other seasonal hedonism of Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day.  But since we wear costume, sometimes the serious elements stay hidden.

This year, my congregation and another sponsored a Carnival for the children of each shul.  The kids would march, sing Purim songs, hear a story and play games while the parents spend money.  After all, Matanos L'Evyonim or giving gifts to the poor is part of the holiday.  From our congregation's financial reports as presented at Board Meetings, nobody could be needier.  Moreover, little unmasks thoughts as effectively as asking people for money, another of the ironies of Purim.

Finally our mind emerges from the clothing facade when we feel outrage.  Our politicians capitalize on this routinely with the curtain on the voting booth shielding what we really think but the election returns revealing it.  And we have anger on Purim, most of it figurative with our groggers obliterating the name of Haman.  We also have a certain amount of real irritation.  At the Purim carnival where the kids sing their songs, the words they were to sing were transliterated.  The principals of the the two schools divided on this issue, probably unmasking what the principles of the two schools really are.  While one is a formal USCJ Framework for Excellence school, their educational director assessed that their children had not acquired sufficient Hebrew skills to learn a few words of Hebrew lettering.  Our principal takes great pride in the ability of our students to do that.  The Framework for Excellence in congregational recruiting literature may turn out to be one more mask, creating a surface illusion but misrepresenting what lies beneath.

So those are the Purim costumes.  The great sage Reb Geraldine noted that "what you see is what you get."  But maybe not, at least on Purim.

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