March 19, 2008

Purim: celebrating solidarity and mutual responsibility

With Purim-masked barista at Cafe Metuka
(close to the Tel Aviv Cinemateque Library)

It is Purim eve here in Tel Aviv (and everywhere outside Jerusalem and all ancient walled cities). Celebrants have already begun planning, creating, and posing in holiday costumes!

A key focus is on bringing joy to needy people as we observe these four mitzvot, commandments:
Yesterday, at the Beit Avot on Yavne Street — where you'll find me Wednesdays (listening, yakking, and hugging) among the elderly infirm, Gisela beamed, "Tomorrow, the rabbi and his wife are coming. We will hear the Megillah read and there will be gifts for everyone."

A feast for the have-nots, too
Purim’s gifts to the needy are to provide more than mere sustenance.
The commandment of giving gifts to the poor on Purim teaches us that happiness is not the exclusive province of the rich. If it is, the celebrations should be canceled....

... Not surprisingly, Maimonides succinctly expresses this fact in his statement that 'gifts for the poor deserve more attention than the festive meal and gifts for friends because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes' (Mishneh Torah, laws governing Purim, Chapter 3, section 17). [Haaretz newspaper, March 4, 2007 | Adar 14, 5767]

How much to give to the needy on Purim?

I always respond that 'one should reduce what one spends on Mishloach Manot and give more to needy Jews.' — Rabbi Michael Broyde

The Megillah tells that when Queen Vashti refused to dance naked and entertain her husband and his friends, he had her beheaded. Today, many women still suffer physically and emotionally in abusive relationships. Jewish Women International has a comprehensive site devoted to this issue and resources.

"Megillat Esther…reminds us that history is capricious and life is fragile; that willing or not, we must confront our powerlessness and vulnerability, our inability to control everything. Or anything." — Rabbi Sharon Brous

Have a happy Purim!


JeSais said...

ok... call me ignorant. really. I know little about my own religion (catholic raised agnositic) and less about Judaism... so in that context I ask my question... is Purim related to Easter? on a visceral non-religious it really harkens back to pagan days kind of way? I ask because I notice that the Purim festival is tied to the Hebrew Calendar, which is lunar based... and Easter is I believe the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.

Hope you enjoy your celebration!

Tamar Orvell said...

JeSais, thanks for your question. While I don't completely understand it or the line of reasoning and wondering, I can at least reply that no, Purim is not related to Easter. Each religious holiday marks unique, unrelated events in history, time, and place. And, each bases its meanings on totally different theologies. Easter, as you probably know, is linked to the Jewish Passover (for much of its symbolism and for its position in the calendar). Perhaps this is the link you were getting at. This link and associated parallels invite endless, fascinating study, albeit of another subject.