In the month before she died in September 2016, my beloved wife of 56 years asked me to do three favors for her.
The first and second favors are inter-related. One, always be close to our 3 children and our 3 adult grandchildren. Invite them for meals on Shabbat and holidays. Listen to them. Help them if they should need anything.
Two, please do not re-marry. That favor was her concern that a second marriage may diminish time spent with our family. I re-assured her that there would never be a second marriage. She was and she remains my only great love.
The third favor was to promise that I would continue my writing. She always encouraged me, offered suggestions, and read my articles before they were sent to my editor for publication.
On a table in the salon there are thirteen bound volumes containing 740 of my published articles and so many pages. I stopped counting at page two thousand.
Now, this 741st article begins Volume Fourteen. I am fulfilling the favor that my Rahel asked of me. With each word and sentence I write I know that she is looking over my shoulder, hopefully agreeing with what I write.
The thirteen bound volumes (and perhaps one or two more yet to come) are intended for my adult grandchildren to keep as a reminder of their saba.
As they begin to talk of marriage, I remind them to take a few volumes of my writing with them on their respective honeymoons (in case they get bored).
The look on their smiling faces requires no words!
The calendar reminds me that Purim is soon approaching. Masaichot v’raashanim….. masks and noise-makers plus the traditional mishloach manot, the sending of sweets to neighbors and friends.
It commemorates the ancient tale of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai in the palace of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) in the capitol of Shushan. And of course, we are obligated to remember the wicked tyrannical vizier of the king, Haman the Agagite.
The noise-makers are sounded each time his name is read aloud from Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther, which is included in the twenty-four books of the Jewish bible.
And the sweets shared with neighbors, family and friends are a symbol of the sweetness of Haman’s downfall as he and his ten sons were hanged on a tree in the palace grounds. Mordechai was appointed as an advisor to the king following Haman’s death.
For me, not a drinker of strong alcoholic beverages, Purim is the one holiday of the year when I can indulge in more than one glass of vodka (my preference over whiskey, brandy, gin, etc.). We are permitted by our rabbis and our traditions to imbibe several glasses which may dull our senses.
The purpose of it is so that we cannot distinguish between the good guys and the wicked guys. Purim requires that we have fun, masquerade parties, and devouring the favorite food of Purim, the hamantashen (in Hebrew, oznai Haman…Haman’s ears). The triangular dough cookie is filled with poppy seeds, cooked prunes or apricots, and is devoured one after the other. I outdid myself last year on Purim night by consuming seven luscious fruit-filled hamantashen.
My tummy reminded me of my error the next day.
Historically the Purim story is the tale of the life of the Jews in ancient Persia, their successes and triumphs, their persecutions and tragedies.
For us, history certainly does repeat. The ancient Haman of Persia (Iran) has been replaced by the modern Khomeini, Khamani, and the Revolutionary Guards who banished Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi from the fabled Peacock Throne in 1979 and who turned a democratic kingdom into a fanatical Muslim Republic threatening Israel and the entire Middle East.
On Purim my father used to eat boiled chickpeas sprinkled with black pepper. He called the delicacy “nahit” ( we know it today as hummus, a national dish throughout the entire Middle East).
When I asked him why that particular food was so popular on Purim he reminded me that because Queen Esther ate only kosher foods, her source of protein came from eating chickpeas.
I’m not certain if that is fact or fancy, but it made sense to me as a young child.
In the meantime I’m counting the days until Purim near the end of March. I look forward to biting into more of “haman’s ears” (not the poppy seed ones that stick to my teeth) and to indulging in a few glasses of Swedish, Polish or Russian vodka. Perhaps all three.
And why not? It will be my birthday on Purim and at 86 I can do whatever I want.
Well—– almost anything.
And with this beginning of Volume Fourteen, I am fulfilling the promise I made to my beloved Rahel z”l.