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Chag Purim Samaech

Happy March Temple Beth Israel,

As we turn the calendar to March, we usher in the Hebrew months of Adar, followed by Adar II; a time according to our rabbis, when we increase our joy each day. As the days pass, we focus our hearts and our souls in preparation for the celebration known as Purim. The Jewish New Year and the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Hashanah, don’t offer the same rowdy, ruckus and light-hearted affair that the Gregorian calendar allows for on Dec.31st/Jan.1st. Rosh Hashanah generally occurs in late Sept or early Oct and while it’s an upbeat holiday, teshuvah/repentance is serious business. On the contrary, Purim offers joyful, celebratory and mischievous revelry. Some compare Purim to Halloween, but All Hallow’s Eve is child’s play compared to the Mardi Gras atmosphere associated with partying one’s tuchus off after surviving annihilation. In reality, Purim serves many functions in the Jewish word.

For those who don’t know the story, Purim is a Jewish holiday, dating back to the 5th century BCE, which celebrates the Jewish people’s survival against a high-ranking ancient Persian official, named Haman, as outlined in the Book of Esther. Haman was the royal vizier to the Persian king Ahasuerus. For various reasons, Haman grew to hate Mordecai and his Jewish tribesmen, and Haman coerces King Ahasuerus to issue a death sentence against the Jews in the kingdom. However, Haman’s scheme is hindered by Mordecai and his niece Esther, who positions herself as Queen of Persia after her marriage to Ahasuerus. When Haman finally meets his demise, the day becomes a festive occasion, as the Jews rejoice in their survival. According to the Scroll of Esther, "they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor." The holiday is synonymous with dressing up, wearing masks, and eating baked cookies called hamantashen- Haman’s pockets or ears! Some of the major mitzvah customs associated with Purim are: eating a special meal called a se’udat Purim, obviously reading the story from the Megillah, and two special mitzvot that I would like our community to focus on this year; the exchanging of goody snack bags among friends known as mishloach manot and the donating of tzedakah, known as matanot l’evyonim, to a worthy organization. This year we will be collecting donations for the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf.

Purim is the most amazing delightful holiday as it embodies so many wonderful tropes, themes, and allowances, shrouded in the resilience of a people who once again celebrate a story where the Jews defeat their violent oppressors. It's viewed and understood as a festive day, almost designed to release bottled-up emotions and energy after a long winter. The holiday can be appreciated as an opportunity to let one’s hair down, cross-dress, wear costume, experiment with makeup, and most importantly, have fun and be funny! Purim skits or spiels and parades are often performed and folks generally have free reign and creative license to mock or satirize their fellow Jewish community. Roast, toast, boast, even float if you want, but please be careful not to over indulge with one too many l’chaims or hamataschen.

On Sunday, March 24th, we will gather in person to celebrate Purim. Together as a community, we will read through the whole megillah in a mix of Hebrew and English. Please, feel free to volunteer and read a chapter in whatever style you’d prefer. Funny voices are encouraged, and costumes are practically mandatory. After the reading, we will conduct our Purim play, sponsored by the Rabin Religious School, followed by other spiels, skits, and light refreshments. We invite you to act out, or display your prepared Purim shpiel, talent show act, or musical parody. Let’s dare to be creative, funny, and artistic! Lastly, don’t forget to prepare your mishloach manot bags and have some tzedakah change for matanot l’evoyanim, focusing on the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf. I’m really excited for this holiday!!

Chodesh tov everyone,


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