This past Saturday I attended a Shabbat service and the rabbi threw me for a loop. He said that Adar, the month of Purim, is the darkest period in Jewish history! What?!
Sadness is not what comes to mind when I think about Purim, my favorite Jewish holiday. As a child, I always thought of it as the “Jewish Halloween”, full of costumes, carnivals, and sweets, of course! As an adult it stayed basically the same, except with alcohol added to the mix. So how can this joyous occasion be a commemoration one of the darkest moments in Jewish history? And why isn't it more somber then?
photo from Tel Aviv Purim celebrations taken from Secret Tel Aviv
Purim celebrates our triumph over the evil Haman (boo!) who tried to kill us. To make a long story short, we got lucky because the Queen of Persia at the time happened to be a Jew (Queen Esther to the rescue!). She stepped up to the plate, put her neck on the line, and saved her people. As the great Jackie Mason would say, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat”.
Photo from Funny Purim Costumes Facebook Page
According to Rabbi Seidenfeld, the time leading up to Purim marks the darkest and most dangerous period in Jewish history. What about the Holocaust, we asked, naturally. His answer was that had Haman been successful, he would have destroyed the entire Jewish people, because unlike during WWII, we were all concentrated in Persia at the time. Hitler, had he succeeded, could have exterminated the Jews of Europe, but there were still Jews in other parts of the world. I think that is debatable, because who knows if Hitler would have stopped at Europe, but nevertheless I had never thought about Purim that way.
And yet, rather than mourning, or being afraid, or hiding who we are, we celebrate our survival on Purim. In fact, it is considered a mitzvah (a good deed) to dance and drink on this holiday. This value, of celebrating life in the face of pain, suffering, or challenge, is one of the foundational values of our tradition. Our people have been the targets of persecution and discrimination of all sorts throughout history. Yet, we never call ourselves victims. Instead, we rise. And not only do we rise, but we rise laughing. We rise dancing. We rise celebrating life to the fullest. Out of the ashes of near destruction, we grow and build and find meaningful ways to repair the world and to celebrate it.
This year Purim starts the evening of March 9th. Happy, happy Purim, my friends! Go out and celebrate it to the fullest! Do you know about a tradition called Mishloach Manot? It is a beautiful tradition of bringing packages of sweets and treats to your neighbors and loved ones around this holiday. I designed you a Purim Card which you can include with your packages! Hop on my Collector’s List for the free download. And if you use the card, please let me know! Tag me on Facebook @AnnaAbramzonStudio or Instagram @AnnaAbramzonArt. Chag Sameach!