Purim is now upon us. Many of us will dress in costume. Others of us will hear the Megilla, or Scroll of Esther, read in synagogue and then join together for a festive meal. We have a mandate to give tzedaka on Purim, and also to give gifts to our friends to celebrate our ancient victory. Some of us will have a drink to commemorate the many wine parties in the book.
At our JCC, the celebration began last Sunday at our Annual Purim Carnival. Thank you to all who were able to spend the afternoon with us!! This year's carnival was a wonderful success. We opened early for families who have children with special needs. Although not many took advantage of our offer, those who did thoroughly enjoyed the special opportunity we provided. We are sure with more time to spread the word we will be able to serve more special needs families!! The rest of the day was packed with families, coming by both bus and by car, to enjoy a fun afternoon. Friday our Early Childhood families enjoyed our annual Purim Parade. The children and teachers looked fantastic. After the children marched in, Linda told the story of Purim. All the parents and children booed as loud as they could every time she said Haman!! After the story was over we were able to share a special Shabbat together since we had so many parents in the room! It was truly a great morning. On our website, if you click on News around the J, you will find an infographic on Purim that Ken created. This infographic has been picked up and used by many other JCC's. Of course, Shalom Stacey has been baking Hamentashen with our members all week in the preschool and at special Hamentashen baking classes. Members are encouraged to try one (or as many as they would like) as they walk into our "J". Finally, Thursday night we had a nice turnout for a glass fusion class. Twenty of us made beautiful salt water bowls for our Seders.
In many ways, the Book of Esther is a blueprint for Jewish success. The Megilla ends with Esther as winner of a beauty pageant and savior of her people and Mordechai appointed as second to the king of Persia and its 127 provinces. They both achieved political power through different means: Esther, initially through her looks, and Mordechai through his loyalty (he revealed a conspiracy to kill the king). But their real success comes only when they stand up for what they believe in, leverage their joint wisdom, and transform power into influence.
On multiple occasions, Esther and Mordechai gather the Jews to mark sadness and celebration. Initially, they gather the Jews to mourn the fate determined by Haman's evil decree. They wear sackcloth and ashes. Mordechai takes his case to the king's gate to protest. Esther gathers the Jews to fast on her behalf when she approaches the king to beg for her people's salvation. Later, Mordechai and Esther gather the Jews in self-defense and then in celebration when the Jews were victorious and averted Haman's decree.
This repeated gathering makes sense if you are trying to create community. You need strength in numbers. You need to know who your friends are. You need company in your misery and friends in your happiness. You need to make the case for Jewish peoplehood.
This Purim, think of our heroes and heroines, and whom you will gather in creating community. Consider how we can support those who continue to live and breathe Esther's dream for us. Imagine how you, like Esther and Mordechai, can transform the future of our people!
Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom!