Purim is coming! The next festival on our calendar begins at sundown on Saturday, February 23. Want some tips on how to celebrate? Here are five things you can do to experience Purim wholly this year.
1. Listen to the megillah. This is one of the holiday’s central mitzvot: to hear the story contained in the Book of Esther. Here at CBI, you’ll be able to hear the story in our Purimspiel (Purim play) on Saturday night, Feb. 23 — Reb Rachel will chant a handful of verses of the Hebrew in classic style, interspersed with our actors’ renditions of the wild and wacky Esther comedy. Special bonus: make noise to drown out the name of Haman!
2. Give to the needy. This is a year-round mitzvah, but it’s heightened on Purim, when it’s an extra-special mitzvah to give to those in need. Purim this year takes place on Saturday night February 23 and Sunday February 24…and as it happens, that Sunday, February 24, is our week to cook meals for 120+ homebound seniors in North Adams as part of Take and Eat. All are welcome to pitch in and lend a hand. (Also consider fiscally supporting this holy work – a monthly meal for more than 100 needy people costs about $180.)
3. Send tasty food gifts. There’s a tradition of giving mishloach manot, baskets of yummy goodies, to friends on Purim. Bake some cookies (or support a local Girl Scout — the Williamstown troop will be selling cookies at the Paresky Center at Williams today) and drop a plate of tastiness off at a friend’s house. Or a fruit basket, or a box of granola bars, or a bottle of juice: whatever’s easy and delicious. Better yet, if you have kids, go the traditional route and enlist your kids in delivering the treats for you. (Think of it as a kind of inverse trick-or-treating, in which kids show up at other people’s houses and deliver goodies, instead of taking them away.)
4. Dress up / wear a costume. This is our festival of masquerades and masks. In the Purim story, Esther hides her true nature — and some say her name comes from the word nistar, “hidden.” Even God is hidden in this story (God does not appear anywhere in the text of the megillah.) We too get to enjoy hiding and costuming on this day: wear a costume or a mask to our Purim party (Saturday night Feb. 23), let your kids dress up in costumes, try out a new style, dress up as someone else, experiment with hiding yourself (or perhaps revealing a new facet of who you truly are.)
5. Rejoice. It’s a mitzvah to enjoy yourself on Purim. Eat a festive meal. If you drink, bless some wine and enjoy that too. One Hasidic teaching says that on this holiday, we’re supposed to become so “perfumed” that we forget the difference between Haman (the bad guy) and Mordechai (the good guy), a neat teaching which is often misunderstood. It’s not about getting so blotto that you can’t tell one thing from the next, but rather letting go of life’s usual ideas and rules and roles for a day. Kick back, have some fun, and take a moment to be grateful for all of the miracles in your life, including the Purim one.