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On Purim, Laugh Strong!

On Purim, Laugh Strong!

Four young kids in Purim costumes

Celebrating Purim as a family is one of the whimsical joys of Jewish living and parenting. It’s probably the only time during the year when you and your children can walk into services and scream – on purpose – and no one will care. In fact, we’re invited to make noise and make our voices heard. Imagine that! It’s just that kind of atmosphere – raucous, loud, chaotic bliss.

Purim is messiness personified. It’s like coloring out of the lines and painting on the walls. It’s like making spaghetti sauce art and starting a water fight, all wrapped up in one topsy-turvy day. We dress up, get silly, and create all kinds of cacophony. We eat, we drink, and we let loose long into the night.

Purim is supposed to be wild; it’s supposed to be crazy. Even the Talmud states that we should celebrate until we don’t know the difference between Mordecai and Haman, a directive neither adults nor children may want to take too literally.

But as wild as Purim gets, it never loses its grounding in Jewish values – and this is what makes Purim so special.

Purim, like so much in Judaism, is built on the principles of community and social justice. We gather together to hear Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) being chanted and to watch the purimspiel performed. We send hamantaschen and treats to our loved ones (the mitzvah of sending mishloach manot) and gifts of food and other essentials to those in need (the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim). Like Esther, we recognize that we are stronger together, and like Mordecai, we know that each of us is responsible for the other. This is what Purim is all about.

Indeed, Purim is a party, but it’s a party with a conscience. We don’t celebrate just for the sake of celebrating. We celebrate our survival. We celebrate Esther’s courage to speak on behalf of her people. We celebrate Mordecai’s foresight to see where the world was heading, and the fortitude he displayed in taking an unpopular stand. We dance and sing and chant with voices clear and unfettered because Mordecai and Esther sacrificed everything in order that their people might live, and that we might carry their story into the future.

In our revelry, we remember Esther and we remember Mordecai and we remember the Jewish people, who persevered no matter what the challenge, and pressed on no matter what the circumstance. We remember their selflessness and their bravery in the face of grave, grave danger and we remember their boundless strength of spirit.

Today, we are free to listen to the Megillah because our ancestors rose above those who would destroy us; they did it in Shushan and did it again several times hence. We can shake our groggers and hoot and holler because, most improbably, we survived. We can jeer and cheer and whoop and boo because, most implausibly, we endured. Against all odds, we have flourished. By wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles, we are here and we are strong, and therefore, we must celebrate. And so we chant and we sing, we dance and we pray, but most of all, we laugh! We laugh in the face of evil Haman and we laugh through the cascade of our tears.

On Purim, our rally cry is heard in the echoes of our joy. As it is said, “Mi sh’nichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha,” “When the month of Adar (the month of Purim) arrives, we should increase our joy.” In joy, we show strength. In joy, we show resilience. In joy, we show pride.

We are strong when we share in the wonder of Purim. We are brave when we find the humor in our lives and in our world. And we are heroes when we find ourselves laughing until we cry. Laughter is our greatest and most profound source of strength. Is there any more powerful message for us or for our children?

On Purim, let’s have a laugh together – and let’s make it loud.

Rabbi Sara Y. Sapadin is a rabbi, mother, and vigorous spiritual seeker. She most recently served Temple Israel of the City of New York, where she focused on issues of social justice, Israel engagement, and revitalizing Jewish living for young families. She and her husband and their four children reside in New York City, where they are raising their dog to be Jewish.

Rabbi Sara Y. Sapadin
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