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Rather than write about Parashat Tzav or Shabbat Zachor this year, I thought I would turn to Purim. This is an extemporaneous piece of writing I worked one earlier this year that I thought might be fun to share. For thoughts on Tzav, try any of these previous musings:
Tzav 5769 - Payback: An
Excerpt From the Diary of Moses
Tzav 5768 - Jeremiah's solution (Updated from 5761)
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5767-Redux 5762-Irrelevant Relavancies
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5766 - Dysfunction Junction
Tzav 5765 (updated 5760)-Of IHOPs, Ordination and Shabbat
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5764-Two Way Street
Tzav 5763 - Zot Torahteinu?
Tzav 5761/5759-Jeremiah's Solution
Purim is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
OK, that's a terribly mixed up metaphor, taking a traditional Xmas song and using it for Purim. However, isn't that one of the main themes of Purim - that everything is v'nafokh-turned upside down? In the Purim story, the Jews of Persia managed to turn the tables on those who sought their destruction. In celebration of that aspect of the story, we bring that sense of topsy-turvy into our Purim, and do the unexpected, reverse roles, and the like.
There are other parts of the Purim story that can be found if we perform a little exegesis on our cobbled-together ditty. Where does a fattening goose fit in? Well, we can think of it as a connection to the prevalence of banquets in the Purim story. The story starts with long banquets, and the central plot twists occur at more private banquets held for King Ahashverosh and Haman at Esther's request. Some scholars have suggested that the whole Purim holiday came about after our exile in Babylon when the returning Jews didn't want to give up the 40-day libation festival that was part of the mixed Babylonian and later conquering Persian culture in which they were living.
Then there's that second line - clearly, a connection tsedakah and social justice - another main theme of Purim. In celebration of the turn of events, the Book of Esther commands the Jewish people to engage in two acts: shalalkh manot - the sharing of gifts with friends and neighbors, and mattanot l'evvyonim - sending gifts to the poor.
Now, let's be honest, there are some rather politically incorrect part of the Purim story that we tend of gloss over - take a look at the last two chapters and see what I mean. Nevertheless, it is a holiday imbued with great meaning, and with great lessons. Even universal ones, and ones that can transcend boundaries.
There's little doubt that Judaism was influenced by the time it spent in Babylon and Persia. What religion hasn't been influenced in this way. Here, in 21st century America, we have many religions and cultured represented. Why not a little cultural sharing, like our little X-mas-based Purim ditty?
Here's to a joyous, upside-down, yet meaningful Purim for all!
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameakh!
©2011 by Adrian A. Durlester
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