"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Purim 5775

It's been a long time since I posted here (mainly because I've been in a lot of pain, and very vulnerable, and haven't wanted to post that publicly), but the holiday of Purim is starting tonight (the Hebrew year this year is 5775, hence the title of this post), and I wanted to share with you all a little bit about what we do on this holiday and what it is all about.

First, the story of Purim.  Here we go:

King Ahasuerus of Persia and Medea holds a big drinking party, and he wants his wife, Queen Vashti, to make an appearance.  (Most scholars agree he wants her to come naked.)  Naturally, Vashti refuses; she is then banished or beheaded, depending upon which commentator you read.  The king then holds a beauty pageant to pick the next queen; its winner is a Jewish girl named Esther.  Esther's uncle-or-cousin (the Hebrew is ambiguous) who raised her warns her not to tell that she is Jewish, so Esther keeps her identity a secret.

Now.  All well and good, until the king's adviser Haman takes a disliking to Mordecai (Esther's uncle-or-cousin) and plots to kill him.  Before long, the plot is out of hand, and Haman wants to kill all Jews in the lands of Persia and Medea.  The king gives Haman his signet ring and allows him to write and sign an edict against the Jews.  Haman casts lots (Hebrew word "Purim"; this is where we get the name of this holiday) to determine what day the Jews will be killed.

When Mordecai hears this news, he goes into a state of mourning.  He sits outside the gates of the palace until Queen Esther notices him.  Once she does, he pleads with her to go to the king and intervene.  At the beginning, Esther is resistant, pointing out that none can go before the king without an invitation, and he has not sent for her in many days.  Mordecai points out that perhaps Esther was placed in the royal palace for just this task.  If she does not go before the king, he says, help for the Jews of Persia and Medea will arise from elsewhere, but Esther and her household will perish.

In a very famous line, Esther responds with, basically, "OK, if I perish, I perish."  She goes before the king, and the king offers her anything she wants, up to and including half his kingdom.  Esther invites the king and Haman to a private party that very evening.  At the party, she invites them to a second party; at that party, Queen Esther implicates Haman.  The king kills Haman and his ten sons (it is customary for the reader reading the story to read all ten names in one breath) and makes Mordecai his primary adviser, and the Jews are allowed to fight back and kill all their enemies on the day they would have been killed.

Now, here is how we celebrate Purim:

The biggest commandment is that we must hear the story read twice, every word, once in the evening and once the following morning.

We give gifts of food to friends and family and money to the poor.

We eat a lavish meal, and are in fact commanded to get drunk on wine.

And--my favorite part--we wear costumes!

I'll be honest, I usually do not manage to fulfill all these commandments.  Generally speaking, I hear the evening reading of the story and sometimes I do a costume.  This year I am doing a costume, and since I know you're curious, I am including a picture (I am going as a frog):

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!