Rabbi's Reflections - Purim

  • February 01, 2013

    Our Jewish religion is often accused of being cerebral.  We spend long hours studying our written tradition. We strive to find hidden meanings in texts. We admire those who occupy themselves with the study of Talmud and similar rabbinic texts for long hours at a time. The sharpening of one’s mind via the study of texts has been recognized as an esteemed value by our people for countless generations.  Yet, the festival of Purim appears to deviate from this approach. On Purim we are to rejoice—to the extreme.  We are expected to dress-up in costumes, imbibe alcohol, pull various pranks in shul, disguise our identity, and in general, be carried away by the whimsical atmosphere that defines Purim. Suddenly, the serious nature of Judaism seems to give way to the light heartedness of Purim.  There is a well-known Hasidic teaching that suggests we learn three things from children—how to keep busy, how to cry for what we need, and how to laugh and be cheerful.  These three characteristics remind us that children are able to become completely absorbed in their activities.  They are uniquely free of the responsibilities and complexities that define life for adults.  

     

    They can be totally engrossed in an activity . . . oblivious to the whole around them. They have the wonderful ability to engross themselves in such a way the world around them vanishes.  All of their attention is directed to the activity at hand.  Purim appears on the calendar to teach us a very important lesson. Once a year, we adults are to duplicate our children’s natural ability to express joy and exuberance.  Freed of the typical constraints of adulthood, the Jewish community is transformed into a locale of laughter, farcical activities, and joy. The worries of everyday are displaced by our ability to become engrossed with the reckless joy associated with Purim.  Don a costume, obscure your identity, join us for various activities associated with Purim, and remind yourself of the joy of being a child. The many holidays that characterize the Jewish yearly cycle provide a myriad of opportunities for us to connect with our Jewish community.  May the joy of Purim permeate our very being, reminding us of the simple joys of being a child whereby our inhibitions are diminished and our laughter is increased.

     

     

    Rabbi Stefan J. Weinberg