Purim* is my favorite Jewish holiday. What’s not to love? You eat tons of delicious food, dress up in crazy costumes, give to and receive gifts from friends, and you drink like crazy until you fall down, happy as a clam.
But these are different times.
And no holiday has had the same excitement and shine it used to have. Still, a year later.
Purim in 2020
Last year we took a walk through one of the most popular areas in the city. There were very early reports of a virus going around, and tiny restrictions on gatherings.
Nonetheless, many events were canceled. And this area that used to be fun almost every night, on one of the most exciting days of the year, was virtually empty. It was disheartening, to say the least. But at that time it would be months before Israel would lose its first Corona patient. And it’s crazy to think I’m writing this shortly after Israel lost its 6,000th.
Last year was lackluster, despite our brilliant depiction of Jon Lennon and Yono Ono. But it had at least tiny pieces of normal along the way. We were out and about. Went to friends’ homes, without fears or concerns. We had no idea what was coming. We had no idea that the following year would be anything but normal. And we certainly had no idea that this mediocre Purim would be worlds more exciting than the one that would happen an entire year later!
Purim in 2021
First off, Purim was still lovely. It was four days with my wife and kids, filled with fun, food, costumes, and movies. We dressed up like the Peanuts gang, with costumes made basically from scratch by my beautiful and extraordinarily talented wife. She painted lines and dots on dresses. She sewed ruffles into sleeves. She expertly did things with my kids’ hair that I didn’t think were possible. And we all had a blast!
But some elements of the day were beyond peculiar.
We went out to our first Megilah reading** on Thursday night. Obviously it was outdoors, since pretty much everything is done outdoors these days. A little less obvious: Sweaters and jackets would have been a really good idea, as most of us were shivering from start to finish. (Not my son. He was cozy, as usual, in shorts and a t-shirt. Gotta love him!)
The reading was fine. Very basic. Which is good when you’re with kids and it’s really cold outside. Get things over with, and get back home for some pizza-making fun time! But the reading ended up being quite a bit longer than it should have been. Why? A hop, skip, and a jump away from our reading was another one. But theirs was qualitatively way different.
We’re All in This Together…
When our group made noise, it was relatively quiet and pretty darn quick. When the other group made noise though, it was long and loud. Guarantee you could hear them many blocks away. So we didn’t just interrupt the reading for our own noise, but we had to interrupt for theirs as well. Which was quite time-consuming, and really not welcome when every minute counts. I wanted my precious kiddos warming up as soon as humanly possible.
That was the nightime reading.
Daytime reading was a whole other story entirely. Yes, of course by definition we had to compete with some cars going by and general foot traffic. But we also had to somehow navigate mega-loud street cleaners and people doing house repairs. Try hearing someone reading a scroll outdoors when two apartments down someone’s drilling through concrete!
Something Great in the Not-So-Great
I’ve never had a Purim quite like this one. I hope to God this was, like so much else in the past year, an historic anomaly. But I do think the problems we faced each and every time we attempted to do the right thing, reflect really well on something extremely important.
My people is resilient. Extremely stubborn and uncommonly resilient.
Giving up and not doing what we’re used to was not an option. No one just sat back and ignored the traditions of the past. No one said, “Of forget it. It’s too noisy. It’s too difficult. And all the fun has been taken out of it, so I’m just going to stay home and do nothing instead.”
Not the way of the Jewish nation. Yeah, we’ll moan for a bit. But then we get up, dust ourselves off, find a healthy workaround, and we do what needs to be done. No one could know what things would look like this year. No one could anticipate all the challenges we would face. But it did not matter. We walked straight ahead and ignored the obstacles that might be standing in our way to the best of our ability.
Most of the time Purim is a wild and crazy holiday. This year it was certainly neither wild nor crazy. But yet it was still one of my most incredible so far, and one I’ll remember for years to come.Most of the time Purim is a wild and crazy holiday. This year it was certainly neither wild nor crazy. But yet it was still one of my most incredible so far, and one I'll remember for years to come. Click To Tweet
Notes (for the uninitiated):
*Purim: A Jewish holiday centered around the story of Mordechai and Queen Esther’s heroism in saving the Jewish people during the Persian Empire. We celebrate through giving gifts to the impoverished, reading from the scroll of Esther, giving gifts to friends, dressing up in costumes, and having a lavish meal with friends and family, often filled with a whole lot of alcohol. It truly is an epic, extremely fun and exciting holiday.
**Megilah Reading: Part of the holiday requirements is we gather in groups (usually in synagogue) to listen to the reading of the scroll of Esther, which tells the story of the holiday. It can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes. It is a requirement to listen quietly for the entire reading, and to not miss hearing even a single word. It is a widespread custom to make noise every time you hear the name of the story’s main antagonist (Haman).
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