Thursday, March 20, 2008


Tonight begins the holiday of Purim. It is a lot of fun and it is one of the non-Biblical holidays. The story takes place in Persia where the wicked Haman, an advisor to the King, King Ahashvarush, devised a plot to kill all the Jews because one Jew, Mordechai, refused to bowed down to the advisor.

Through a series of unlikely events, the King needs a new Queen and holds a pageant, Esther, a Jew, is chosen. She hides the fact that she is Jewish from Ahashvarush until she feels the time is right. She and Mordechai ultimately save the entire Jewish people and it is Haman who ends up being hung on the gallows he had built to use for hanging Mordechai and other Jews.

The holiday is actually a fun holiday. It involves dressing up in costumes, having parties, putting on silly plays, eating and drinking. My father used to refer to this as the Jewish equivalent of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is the last time to get silly before Christians get serious for the upcoming holiday of Easter. Purim is the last time to get silly before Jews get serious about the upcoming holiday of Passover.

The customs of the holiday of Purim include giving money to the poor, giving gifts of food to others (M’shaloach Manot), hearing the Magilah (the story of Purim) read in the evening and then again in the morning, and getting so drunk you do not know the difference between the phrases “Blessed is Mordechai” (The hero) and “Cursed is Haman” (The villain). In Hebrew the term is Adloyadah, or ad d’lo yadah and translates to ‘Until you don’t know the difference’.

While this is a fun holiday and one in which many do drink, it is important to consider why this is a commandment. The idea is on Purim, many things are hidden. G-d is not even mentioned in the Magilah, the story of Purim. Still, with the way things happened, it is a foregone conclusion that G-d played a major role in the miracle.

You are probably wondering how this has anything to do with drinking. When we appear before a ruler or someone whom it is important we make a good impression, we are on our best behavior. Often times we ‘hide’ those things we don’t want others to see. Certainly if it is important to make a good impression on some people in society, it is even more important to make a good impression on G-d. This we might try to ‘hide’ certain faults we have. When we drink, we have less control over our behavior and actions. It becomes harder for us to ‘hide’ things and G-d has an opportunity to judge us not at our best, but arguably at our worst.

Regardless of what you believe or want to believe, the bottom line is the holiday is a lot of fun and a time to enjoy. And, as dad would point out, once the holiday is over, it is time to get serious and begin our Passover preparations.

I wish one and all a Happy and Frailach Purim!

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