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The upcoming holiday of Tu BiShvat -- the birthday of the trees - brings back a memory of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the museum is an enormous cross-section of a giant sequoia tree. Standing before it is a sublime experience. The cross-section overwhelms you with its sheer size, inspiring questions about the size of the tree it was cut from.
When I was a child, I remember saying to my mother about the Purim story, "Maybe Haman wouldn't have done anything if he'd known Queen Esther was Jewish." King Ahasuerus' easily manipulated nature laid the foundations for the story, while Haman's vociferous antisemitism drove the story forward.
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.
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.
Green Kislev and Hanukkah Challenge to Use CFL Light BulbsWelcome to December and the Jewish month of Kislev! Hanukkah, the Festival of Light, is just around the corner and as the days shorten towards the winter equinox later this month, it seems fitting to focus on how we light our houses for this month’s Green Challenge.
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.
Jews across the world are getting ready to celebrate Purim. Already, there are many Jews, from young children to grown adults, planning their Purim outfits. Some will be characters from the Purim story. Some will be famous actors. Some will be fictional heroes and villains. And no doubt, many people will cross-dress and dress up as someone of a different gender. Most people will not think twice about whether their costume will be accepted on Purim, as it is almost expected that people will dress up for the holiday.
On Purim, we celebrate a time of transition for the Jews, from “grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day—to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor” (Megillat Esther 9).
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.
The holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabee resistance over the Syrians led by Antiochus Epiphanes. The Syrians had taken over Jerusalem, desecrated the holy Temple, abolished Judaism, prohibited observance of Shabbat and the Festivals, in addition to outlawing critical Jewish rites like circumcision. The Jews were given two options by Antiochus, conversion or death. The first night of Hanukkah -- 25 Kislev -- commemorates the day the Temple was renamed for the Greek god Zeus, and the resistance movement led by the Maccabees developed. The Maccabees, led by Mattathias and Judah, ousted the Syrians and restored Jerusalem to the Jewish people.