From the Rabbi’s Desk March 2024
Rabbi Carla Freedman
The Jewish calendar is a very complicated thing, with built-in corrections to accommodate some practical considerations. The most obvious of these is the solar correction to an otherwise lunar calendar, so that the festivals and holy days remain connected to the seasons we experience in the northern
That solar correction adds an extra month to the calendar, so that, this
year, Purim will be celebrated on March 24, whereas it was observed last year on March 7/8, and next year, it will be celebrated on March 14/15. Purim directly precedes Pesach by a month.
Calendar aside, Purim is a strange Jewish occasion. It purports to be about circumstances that took place in the Persian Empire, which was, at least at its outset, more Jew-friendly than its predecessor, the Babylonian Empire. Yet there are no events in the history of the Persians that have any resemblance to the story of Purim: no emperor who married a Jewish woman; no royal proclamation that ordered the killing of the Jews; no “miraculous” salvation. Some scholars suggest that the whole megillah is a fabrication for the express purpose of silliness. There are sly innuendos, mockery of kings and queens, even possibly a jab at serious Jewish concerns.
As a “festival” it encourages cross-dressing, drinking, and general silliness. You can see why it has become a big favorite for lots of people. The real oddity is that, though the story is full of adult behavior, Purim has largely become a children’s holiday: consider all the Purim carnivals, costume prizes and other kid-friendly activities that synagogues hold every year. While some
congregations do mount a Purim Shpiel for adults (often elaborate undertakings, with large casts and big musical numbers), many only provide
a relatively perfunctory reading of the megillah for their adult members.
We at Beth Israel have a tradition of Purim shpiels…plays…that borrow from the wider American culture for some of the fun. A few years ago, Elvis visited Sun City Center; last year, we hosted the Mench, the Mamzer, and the Mieskite, (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). And this year, we have back the Never Ready For Prime Time Players preparing a skit called Estherella for your entertainment. Our own talented Dalia Behr has written the script and is directing the show.
On March 24, at 1:00 pm, we’ll start with some chanting of the Megillah, some silly singing, and then the Shpiel. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy the amazing homemade hamantashen that Sam and Sandy Zians produce every year, plus our annual tasting of Passover wines available locally.
So: put your serious face aside for that afternoon and come celebrate this
most unusual of Jewish occasions with us! (We provide the graggers!) Come
in costume if you can and get into the spirit of Purim!