Israel is bubbling with Purim preparations. All of the random-things-stores are stocked to the ceiling with hats, boas, silly glasses, and vampire teeth. Adult nurse and police officer costumes, clearly intended for fetish purposes, are available, just for a couple weeks, in local toy stores. Alcohol is on sale, hamentaschen are in every bakery, and it’s party time baby.
If you are religious, this holiday is filled with lessons about God’s presence in every moment, even when it seems like He’s not there. If you aren’t religious, like me, this holiday is filled with junk food, super fun costumes, and three wide-eyed young children, who are very confused about what the Megillah has to do with being a Power Ranger.
Can we not-daati people be more open about not being religious as Americans in Israel? I’m a recently divorced mom, and also a newly not-daati olah who, like many of you, came to Israel, got religious, and now live here because it’s my home.
Every holiday can be a little confusing for kids when you live in a religious-oriented country, but don’t live a religious life. Yesterday my six and half year old asked me about the story of Esther, which led to us talking about how dangerous it’s been to be Jewish in other countries over the last few thousand years. I explained that that’s one reason why I wanted to live in Israel, and why I’m happy that he and his brothers get to grow up here. No, I didn’t bring up the endless list of problems that we have here (each one can get its own blog post 😉 ) and I told him that when the Jews weren’t exterminated in Persia, they had a party, and here in Israel, we love to celebrate life, so we are going to party too.
Like kids tend to do, he got me thinking. Before we have a national party this year, I wonder for most of us, besides for the drinking, the friends, the costumes, the music, the time off work and school, what IS the point if you aren’t celebrating God’s hidden existence in the world?
We Jews have an endless supply of holidays. We get to celebrate every season, and most of our holidays are in honor of almost dying but not being annihilated. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful because like every human, regardless of gender, race, citizenship, etc, I didn’t choose many things about my life, and I’m grateful to have been born into this ridiculous tribe of Israel, and I’m happy to party every time we commemorate almost dying!
There are many things that we don’t choose in life, but luckily, there are many things that we do choose. And for those of us that aren’t looking for God, I think we are still able to find a lot of wisdom and lessons in Purim. The story of Esther is amazing – it’s a heroine who had to use the means of the society that she was trapped in, in order to save an oppressed people from a powerful dictator. This is a modern story. This is a reminder that there are still MANY women who live in societies and countries that don’t have the same freedoms and opportunities that their male counterparts have. It’s a story about the inner struggle of living selfishly versus making difficult decisions to help others. It’s an incredible way to gauge how far we’ve come as an underdog people living in Persia, to the leaders of Democracy in the Middle East. This holiday gives us a look into human history, into human psychology, and we get to drink and hug friends while we do it.
These are some ideas to discuss with friends and/or children this year, and I’d love to hear more if you want to share :).
- Equality: gender, race, citizenship
- Government: dictatorship, checks and balances, law-making
- Helping Others
- Love and Healthy Relationships
- Being Grateful & Thankful
I plan on Purim being memorable, fun, and meaningful for my children, without the traditional seuda and focus on God’s mercy. We have days off of school to enjoy, but also, I think Esther is a role-model for selflessness. How incredible would it be if Purim was a day when everyone was more conscious of how they treated others? And I don’t mean giving every beggar 10 agurot since it’s assur to turn down tzedakah on Purim ;). I would love to create some new Purim traditions for my children to internalize and integrate. We are planning to bring hamentaschen and positive energy to people who don’t have human connections often. For some people, getting a hug and a hamentaschen from a kid is better than a party.
Side point – let’s also choose to keep everyone around us safe this year, and not let Purim be an excuse for danger.
Hoping to blog more for other people and parents who aren’t religiously-oriented :). Happy Purim!