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Let’s Make Some Noise—It’s Purim!

How can one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar also be a  holiday that involves traditions to hide behind masks, parade in the streets dressed in colorful costumes, go overboard on a festive meal,  drink more alcohol than usual, run around like crazy to deliver bags of edible treats (mishloach manot) to friends, neighbors and even strangers, give tzedakah to the needy (or anyone who asks), not to mention make lots of noise in the middle of synagogue while the Rabbi reads from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible),  Well, this is Purim, even inspiring my Rabbi friend to don a gorilla costume and swing from the rafters while making l’chaims.

The joyful festival of Purim is a time for serious partying and prayer, which makes it a holiday like no other. Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar, which is Thursday March 21. (March 22 in Jerusalem). Purim, which means “Feast of Lots,” comes from the Persian word pur, for “lot, the game of chance that Haman used to decide on which day he plotted to kill the Jews, as recorded in the Megillah.

Purim offers more spiritual opportunity than any other time of year. In fact, Purim is more sacred than Yom Kippur. The word Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, comes from Yom Ki-Purim, meaning Yom Kippur is a “day like Purim.” Yom Kippur tries to live up to the real sanctity of Purim.  Even the Talmud tells us on this daytime wine-fest to celebrate until we don’t know the difference between ‘blessed is Mordechai’ and ‘cursed is Haman.” In doing so, Purim reminds us that not everything in life is as it appears to be, we even hide behind masks to conceal our true selves, and Purim is a time to let it all hang out. When we read the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther, we recall that the hand of God is often hidden, which is why God’s name is never mentioned in the text. It’s up to us to search for God’s presence in the Purim story, as well as in our modern lives. Especially when things seem difficult and even impossible we remain faithful that these challenges are a blessing in disguise.

In the Purim story, great miracles are hidden on purpose, waiting to be found. Even the name Esther means “hidden” in Hebrew. For example, is it coincidence or God’s guiding hand that fate unfolded, as such:  Esther, who is Jewish, ischosen to be queen out of all the beautiful young maidens in Persia. King Ahasuerus is taken by the natural beauty of her dark brown eyes, long braided hair, and quiet, confident demeanor.  Esther is placed in the palace in the capital city of Shushan so that she would be at the right place at the right time to save the Jewish people.  Mordechai  hears the plot to kill the king. Esther invites the king and his wicked advisor Haman to a feast and ploys them with a gluttony of food and wine the point that the king grants her anything she wants, and that is to save her people while exposing Haman for the real evil that he is. Haman builds the gallows upon which he is eventually hung.

The main theme of Purim is to take ownership of our Jewishness, which is exactly what Queen Esther did though she disguised her true identity at first. Esther used her beauty and brains to play a deceitful game for the greater purpose to save her people from evil Haman’s plot to destroy, kill and annihilate the Jewish people in a single day. Some of the sages believe that “Purim is greater than the day on which the Torah was given.”Purim is the day that we took the Torah. And when we take ownership of being Jewish, prayer and spiritualty rise to a new level.On Purim, we are reminded that God runs the show even if it doesn’t appear that way at first.

Purim is a powerful day of prayer. Not only do we go house to house and share little bags of goodies or a meal with someone who is hungry, we also give whatever we can to charities who come our way that day and ask for a donation. So Purim is holiday to ask and to receive, which is why Jews believe that prayer is answered on this day in particular. Every year when we hear the Book of Esther, we learn something new, and why partying and prayer go hand in hand. And if you really want to tap into the hidden meanings in the whole Megillah, including some of the Torah codes, it will blow you away.

By the way, the Supermoon will appear in the night sky and coincide with Purim this year, so look out it’s gonna get crazy!

Chag Sameach Purim!

Purim in Jerusalem.