This week marks the best festival in the Jewish calendar – one that I referred to a couple of posts ago…
It’s the best because it’s the holiday where you wear fancy dress, it’s the holiday where you get to boooooo and hisssssss as loudly as you can throughout the telling of the story (generally in play form these days – another bonus if you love a little theatre!) AND it’s another holiday of tasty treats!
The story that we tell was written long after the Torah and is known as The Story of Esther. To summarise it quickly:
– There was a King (Ahashuerus) who hated his wife. So he decided to throw a beauty pageant to find another (fullproof King-thinking there, because we all know that you only need beauty for good Queen-ing skills)…
– There was a hottie Jewess called Esther. She was sooooo hot that she won the pageant!
– Esther’s uncle was a beardy dude (probably, right?) called Mordechai!
(we whoop or cheer or clap any time we hear his or Esther’s name!)
– Modechai tells Esther not to mention the whole “Jew thing” to her new hubby in case he decides he’s not a fan and considers killing her. Not the best foundation for a relationship, but still… probably wise advice for the times, BECAUSE…
– King A has a baaaaaaaaaad dude in his team. An advisor called Haman (cue the booing and the hissing and the stamping of feet at his name). Haman doesn’t like my tribe-folk because they refuse to bow to him as they’re supposed to (as everyone else in the realm does) whenever he walks by. We only bow to G-d, you see… And Haman ain’t no-one’s G-d!
– Looooooooooong story short:
It gets to the point where Haman devises this plan to kill off all the Jews of the area,
so Mordechai begs Esther to tell her hubby of this threat to her and her people.
After some fasting and praying, she goes to King A with the facts.
He’s a good King really, so he looks after us all – which is probably in part due to the fact that Mordechai has previously saved him from a planned coup.
And it all ends with Haman being hanged on the gallows erected to kill our peeps instead.
Cue happy Jews, celebrating the night away!
We survived another attempted genocide – hooray!
Where does this week’s lesson come in, you may ask?
I was thinking about why we wear fancy dress for this holiday.
Why we eat the yummy foods is clear:
As I may have mentioned a few times, we LOVE our food!
And we love celebrating WITH food!
Why we boo at Haman and cheer for Esther and Mordechai is clear:
No explanation required.
We’ve all seen pantomimes in our time.
Why we tell the story is clear:
It’s another tale of survival that charts our history and our resilience.
But why the fancy dress?
Well… I guess there’s some symbolism in the fact that Esther had to hide who she truly was in order to be safe.
A story that has been told time and time again.
And not just one of our people, but for many peoples throughout history (and, unfortunately still to this day).
It’s fun for us to dress up in fancy dress when there’s a party!
It’s fun for us to make it a game for kids!
But (wait for it – #pennydropmoment) traditions like these (telling the story and celebrating it like we do) exist in order for us to remember important lessons…
This week, the world has once again been shaken by bombings and attacks.
I am not interested in pitting one religion against another.
I have no interest in that.
I see no point in that.
I see no reason that we can’t all continue the traditions of our own peoples in harmony with others if we so desire.
Let’s be honest, most ancient traditions have evolved from much of the same source material anyway.
But, I see some poignancy in these attacks occurring in the week of Purim.
When we’re remembering a time of having to hide our identities.
Having to hide our beliefs.
Having to hide ourselves.
All in the face of violent threats.
It happened to us in Haman’s Persia, in Isabella’s Spain, in Hitler’s Germany…
It happens to other people in parts of the world today. For many hurtful reasons.
Until evolution erases the part of our brains that holds on to narrow-mindedness and unjust intolerances, this will continue to happen.
So, in the face of that, we cannot keep to ourselves. We cannot disguise ourselves.
We must not hide ourselves.
We must continue to celebrate the survival of humanity.
Of all humanity.
In Judaism, when someone dies, we traditionally wish their family members a “long life”.
This can sometimes feel like you’re giving the mourner a slap in the face.
Until you realise that the best way for someone to live on is in the memory of those left behind…
So, for now, all we can do is celebrate life.
And live it long and well.
… Let’s eat.