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All of the fun and merriment of the holiday aside, the true obligations of Purim are not fulfilled if we do not help the needy. With all of the partying associated with the holiday, it is easy to focus on our wants and forget about others’ needs.
A few hours after 8-year-old Sammy Sommer and his parents were told by their amazing doctor in Milwaukee there would be no more treatment for his acute myelogenous leukemia, I met them for French fries at a hot dog stand in Highland Park.
We know that religious freedom is not a lesson from ancient stories, but an ongoing quest even today. While many of us are fighting antisemitism in our home countries, we are also in solidarity with the Rohingya people, who have been persecuted for decades.
Today, comedy is a national vernacular, a social and cultural force. We communicate in memes. We look to late night to process the news. Good (and even dumb) comedy challenges and connects, activates and affirms.
Welcome to the Jewish Month of Adar! This month in the Jewish year we celebrate Purim by reading Megillat Esther, dressing up in costumes and sending our friends and families mishloach manot gift baskets. There are many ways to incorporate environmental themes into every holiday, from reading prayers for our earth in services to using recycled materials to make our costumes.
Though Purim is a time for costumes, carnivals and hamentaschen, the story also prompts big questions, like the use of the death penalty in our society. At the end of the Purim story, we see the death penalty carried out when Haman is hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.
I have always loved Purim. I remember eating hamentaschen in my religious school classes (deciding amongst the apricot, poppyseed, chocolate or strawberry flavors), playing bean bag toss at the Purim carnival, and waiving the groger enthusiastically as my rabbis, dressed up in costumes to accompany the theme of that year’s Purim spiel, recited the name of Haman, the wicked villain who tried to kill the Jews. I remember feeling so honored when I got to wear my own costume as part of the Purim spiel and read the megillah the year after I became a Bat Mitzvah. We are taught that Purim is a time for “feasting and merrymaking” (Megillat Esther 9:22). However, there are also a number of traditional obligations we have as Jews in addition to feasting and merrymaking, which remind us of the struggles for justice that continue year round.