Today is International Women’s Day, and we have a confluence, as we sometimes do, between secular observances and our Jewish calendar. For just three days after International Women’s Day we celebrate Purim, a holiday in which the accomplishments of women are pivotal to the story.
Rabbis in photo (left to right): Heidi Hoover, Rebecca Sirbu, Michael Bernstein, Pamela Gottfried, Ruth Abusch-Magder and Rachael Bregman
Today is April Fools’ Day, and last week was Purim. Taken together, it seems spring is a funny time.
This week’s Torah portion, Tzav, ends with a ceremony consecrating the first Israelite priests, Aaron and his sons. The blood of a sacrificial ram is smeared on an ear, a hand, and a foot. With this, their bodies are sanctified and their sacred work begins. As paradigms have shifted, we don’t mark our own service as a Kingdom of Priests with animal blood. Still, the Talmud debates just how many paces we may walk from bed, upon awakening, before washing our hands, renewing their dedication to serve as God’s arms in the world.
Last week I had a nasty bout of stomach flu. One of those batten down the hatches, no food for two days, self-quarantined episodes that wiped me out for a solid two days. But as queasy as I felt for those few days, it was nothing compared with how sickened and nauseous I felt last night (March 21, 2016) watching Donald J. Trump be received with applause and fervor at AIPAC.
Purim is, without question, one of the most outrageous, over-the-top and, some might say, offensive holidays in the Jewish tradition. Not the toned down, child-centric, carnival game-filled, “and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” version of the story that most of us hear or remember. The version of the story where the Jews attack and kill hundreds of Persians by taking up arms at the end of the story. The version where not only Haman is hanged but where all 10 of his sons are murdered on the gallows too.
Do you want to be happy?
When I think of the Purim holiday, I tend to think of noise-making, carnivals, costumes, and cookies. It was definitely one of the more fun Jewish holidays when I was a kid. But, as an adult who has actually read the Book of Esther, I realize that there are many parts of the story that are not so kid-friendly.