I’ve always loved the irreverent, carnivalesque side of Purim – the colourful masks and costumes, the street parades, the rowdy festive atmosphere at shul, the drinking (it’s a mitzvah!), the unabashed generosity of mishloach manot and of course the feminist heroines! I even love the barely edible hamantaschen that always seem to crumble in your hands.
Purim is a festival of joy with a capital J but between floods, pandemics and war on the world stage, it may feel hard to muster up the necessary cheer.
But maybe that’s exactly why we need it. After all, Purim is a festival which actively chooses celebration rather than commemoration. It’s the joyous antidote to trauma after tragedy is narrowly averted. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls it “therapeutic joy.”
In the story recounted in Megillat Esther, Mordechai uncovers Haman’s plot to annihilate all the Jews of Persia and urges Esther, his niece and the newly minted queen, to expose him to her husband, King Ahasuerus. Fearing for her life, Esther is initially reluctant, but in an act of extreme courage, she steps out of her comfortable, curtailed existence as queen of Persia, reveals her true identity as Jewish, and thwarts Haman’s conspiracy. In the topsy-turvy turn of fortunes, the Jews launch a pre-emptive war against Haman and his followers, and Haman and his sons are hanged on the very gallows they had prepared for Mordechai. The enemies are vanquished and the Jews are saved.
Responding to trauma with the directive of simcha is as Rabbi Sack’s writes “counter-intuitive and extraordinary. You defeat fear by joy. You conquer terror by collective celebration. You prepare a festive meal, invite guests, give gifts to friends.” The gallows humour of the old Jewish joke is very apt here. “They wanted to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.”
This Purim we don’t have to be quite as courageous as Esther, but let’s take her as a role model. Let’s know that we have the power to step out of our respective comfort zones for the earth and for our community. Let’s be intentionally joyous and celebrate Purim mindfully by choosing a Purim that reaches out to community and is also sustainable.
At Adamama, we are hosting a Purim Party at Jnr Playgroup. Get dressed in your Purim best and come ready to sing Purim songs, dance and read a Purim story. There will be something for everyone! Book in HERE!
Here are some more great ideas adapted from Sviva Israel, a religious environmental NGO, to help us celebrate Purim in a more Earth friendly way:
- Eco Packaging: What can you do with so many straw baskets and gift bags? Package your mishloach manot in useful, reusable containers such as storage containers, glasses, mugs and pasta drainers for year-round usability.
- Wrap it Up: Mishloach manot food items can be wrapped up in a pretty hand towel, apron or other useful fabric item.
- Sustainable Stuffing: Instead of padding your package with shredded cellophane or colored paper, use banana chips, sunflower seeds or popcorn (only for recipients older than 3).
- Bag It: Give your gifts in eco-friendly cloth bags that your friends can reuse for shopping.
- Naturally Sweet: Replace the candy and chocolates with fresh and dried fruit or fruit leathers, unsweetened fruit juices, and other healthy products.
- Purim Swap Shop: Your son doesn’t want to wear last year’s cowboy outfit? Many costumes are perennial favorites. Create a neighborhood swap shop with everyone’s unwanted, worn-once Purim costumes.
- Raid Your Closets: Introduce your kids to the old Purim tradition of creating their own costumes from your (old) clothing, hats, shoes and jewelry. Encourage their imagination to run wild!
- Recycled Costumes: Making a costume from cardboard boxes, kitchen roll tubes, etc. puts the cool into old school. Just bring out your scissors and paints and get creative.
- Join a Purim Co-op: Give mishloach manot as a community. Compile a list of all the members in the community (neighbourhood, synagogue, seniors group, etc.). People can check off the names of those they would like to send a gift to, contributing a set amount for each name. Volunteers prepare and deliver one nice-sized food gift to each person, with a note listing all of their friends who thought of them. The beauty of this idea is that is saves the time and excess food and packaging of multiple gift-giving, creates a strong sense of community fellowship and any profits can be given to charity.
- Share the Spoils: Purim is over and you find yourself overloaded with unwanted food gifts? Bring (unopened) food items to a local food bank or organise a food drive at your child’s school for distribution to needy families.