Tomorrow is Purim. It is a time of levity, merrymaking , a time to throw caution to the winds. Arguably, the holiday doesn't fit in well with the historical experience of the Jewish people-one of persecution and exile, or their psychology, which until this contemporary generation , has been dominated by feelings of sadness and national sorrow.
Nevertheless, somehow we have succeeded in discovering a place in our imaginations to allow for a brief moment of celebration during a brief moment of respite.We are grateful for these passing moments of release from the struggles and hardships of on-going living, and we are summoned to plunge into these transitory times with the fullest of grateful gusto.It may be difficult to make the switch; to go from a mood of seriousness and solemnity to one of carefree celebration requires a psychological resilience that is not always readily available. Our Rabbis remind us not to take our worries with us everywhere we go-"Daya tzara beshaatah"- it is more than enough to experience pain when it occurs in its own time!
Purim is also a time of make-believe, especially for children, and for grown ups with a child-like soul
Our nursery school is open to children of all ethnic groups. I stepped into the activity room for a Purim party and was greeted by an array of Korean children dressed in sparkling gowns of a princess or queen. This sight led me to ask one Korean child: "Are you Queen Esther?"
She gazed at me with her big ,black eyes, and with unabashed innocence replied: " No, I'm Snow White!"
Today has been a day of serendipity. I received a phone call from the daughter of a congregant and friend of a previous congregation. She is the proud and grateful mother of a lovely three year old girl whose Hebrew name is Esther, and whose grandmother's name is also Esther. Naturally, she was encouraged to dress up as Queen Esther for Purim . She adamantly refused. When asked what she would like to be on Purim little Esther answered decidedly -"Haman!" " The villain? After all , your name is Esther: grandma's name is Esther! Why not Esther?"
"Because after Haman died, the Jewish people were happy and had a big party."For this little Esther , Haman the villain represented victory and joy.
As I begin my spiritual preparations for Purim I cannot help but feel grateful for the moment of respite in our Jewish lives and for the indescribable joy of God's gift of children to the world.