Sunday, March 10, 2019 | ג’ אדר ב תשע”ט
Purim|Fun, Joy and the Celebration of Life
In terms of sheer fun, Purim easily tops all Jewish celebration. We party in fancy dress, make merry and even drink
alcoholic beverages (Ad Lo Yada) with a certain indulgence
alien to other Jewish celebrations. From babies to
grandparents, we parade in funny costumes, and drown the
name of our evil enemy Haman in riots of noise (in synagogue, for once encouraged to be noisy). To be sure, we are always
required to enjoy everything that goes with living as Jews: our family life, synagogue gatherings, traditional meals, and so.
Joy is a key attribute of other Jewish festivities: Pessach,
Shavuot & Succot (especially Succot), when we’re expected to
be joyful in the happy embrace of the total experience of our
life: family, community, and nation.
So, why is Purim different?
Why are the three pilgrim festivals of Judaism about joy, while Purim has almost an order to have fun? Pessach, Shavuot & Succot are festivities enshrined in the
authority of the Torah. The events of Purim occurred much
later in our history, at a time when our nation had lost its
sovereign independence, conquered by the Babylonians who
expelled us from our Land and destroyed our national life,
subject to the Persian Empire.
Purim occurred during a time when we were totally at the mercy of others;
the 3 pilgrimage Festivals were established even before the Children of Israel began our life as a free nation in the Promised Land, Eretz Yisrael. Pessach, Shavuot and Succot were instituted when our People became free, prepared to
conquer the Land and began our life as a Nation. By contrast,
Purim marks a very different type of event, when clever
Mordechai and Esther thwarted the intention of evil Hamman and his hateful followers to murder the whole Jewish people
in all 127 provinces of the Persian Empire. After the defeat of Haman and his followers, the Jews were still subjects of the
Persian Empire, so
Purim is not about regaining Jewish national
Purim only expresses the Jewish people’s
tremendous relief for their physical salvation – for not being killed in a massive genocide…
what we celebrate today in a fun party, trying to forget such a threat. Joy, on the other hand, is a total experience of deep
and full satisfaction at many simple and complex levels of
meaning. The Torah demands joy from a free, independent and strong people – a Nation that holds its future in its own hands, even when our existence is challenged, threatened and endangered. Fun, even Purim Fun, is a temporary condition; it passes. We celebrate the demise of a horrible threat, but the
big picture didn’t change – the Jews were still dependent on
the will of the Persians. We are licensed to celebrate with
alcohol because the thought of a total genocide of our own
people is so unbearable that we need those images to blur –
celebrating that we are alive, after all. Pessach, Shavuot &
Succot are pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Festivals about the joy of our life a free, independent, and strong people, filled with
nationalpurpose, hope and future.
Let’s celebrate Purim with lots of fun – and may we celebrate, day after day, the joyful experience of the recovering of our
national life and self in our new-old State of Israel. May God will that each and every one of us hears the story of
Esther, Mordechai and their redemptive history, and adoptit as our own.
With our best wishes, Chag Purim Sameach! Rabbi Carlos A. Tapiero
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union
The heroes of the salvation of the Jewish People.
MACCABI WORLD UNION