The holiday of Purim is fast approaching - this year, it begins on the evening of Wendsday, March 4 and ends on the evening of Thursday, March 5.
At the most basic level, Purim is a raucous celebration of the story of Esther. In the biblical book of Esther, the Jews of ancient Persia faced certain annihilation, but they not only survived, but turned the tables on their oppressors. More information on Purim can be found here.
On the lived level, Purim is a raucous holiday filled with groggers, skits, costumes, hamentashen, alcohol and more. It’s a day when everything is reversed and we fully acknowledge and even celebrate the sheer absurdity of existence. At BHA, we generally have two major celebrations: A carnival, which is geared for children but open to all ages, and a megilah reading, which is geared for adults but open to all ages. Here are some highlights of this year's practices and celebrations
- Shalach Manot: One of the central and loveliest customs of Purim is sending Shlach Manot - gifts to friends and neighbors to celebrate the liberation of Purim. You can click here to send shalach manot to friends in this community and support BHA in the process!
- Matanot L'Evyonim So that nobody is left out of the celebrations, it is a mitzvah to give gifts of food to the poor in our community. It is considered particularly meritorious to give these gifts directly to those in need, but if you would like, worthy places to contribute are the BHA Discretionary Fund, the Hudson Valley Food Bank or American Jewish World Service.
- Purim Carnival: Our annual Purim Carnival in March 1 from 11 AM to 1 PM. Our success depends upon the involvement from our community. Please contact Jennifer Alfasso to help run a booth, set up and clean up. We are also looking for donations for our prize table; leftover items such as party favors or craft/school supplies that would be appropriate. There will be a box by the coat rack in the back of our downstairs community room. Everyone is welcome to join us for delicious food, fun raffles, lively songs and dances and games for all ages! Also feel free to come in costume and bring friends!
- Megilah Reading: We'll be reading the story of Esther on Wendsday, March 4; 6:00 PM with readings and activities for kids; 7:00 PM for adults. Come in costume if you can, and celebrate!
Finally, on the philosophical level, Purim raises complicated questions about fate, power, gender and more. The book does not directly refer to the Holy One, but the rabbinic tradition understands the Divine presence to be hidden in the book. Ultimately, it is the book's giving of hope to an oppressed and scattered people that they will prevail, no matter how desperate their circumstances, that has made the Book of Esther so beloved in the Jewish community.
Purim comes at the end (we hope!) of winter, pointing the way to spring and Passover. But while that story is a celebration of the Holy One leading the Jews from exile to their own land, Purim reflects the situation of a minority people surviving in a world of moral uncertainty by their own wits.