Just about the last big in-person event I went to PC / BC* was Purim with my Nefesh community. What is Purim? I’m glad you asked!
PC / BC Pre-/Before Corona
Purim is the springtime festival celebrating the story in the Torah’s Book of Esther about the near destruction of the Jewish people in the Persian exile. It’s a loud, drunken feast and reading, and is unusual in a few ways. Some call it Jewish carnival or Mardi Gras, which is fun, but it also commemorates victory in a near-genocide.
It’s a mitzvah to get drunk on Purim, in fact so drunk that when the story is retold you can no longer tell the good guys (the Jews, including Esther and her uncle, Mordecai) from the bad guys (Haman, who plotted the genocide). This may have something to do with the Jews committing a genocide at the end of the story: the slaughter of those who plotted to murder the Jews across not just present-day Iran, but the entire sprawling Persian empire.
Also of note: G-d is not mentioned in the story, one of only two books of the Torah with that claim. I take a few things from this:
- Does that mean G-d is not present and is that because the J’s were in exile?
- Or is it perhaps because it’s a story of action and having to save ourselves?
- It’s a story of politics and maneuvering and how delicate that can be, and in the lore G-d had already gotten very involved in the next story of survival and liberation on the calendar (Exodus), which leads to:
- The human action is driven largely by Esther, though the storytellers ensured that a dude, her uncle, was telling her what to do the whole time (oy).
And oy we did. Every time something problematic or sexist arose, we let out an oy.
The survival of the diaspora Jews hinged on one woman here. There’s a lot more to this story and bless my Intro 2.0 class for walking us through the tale as well as the-largely-absent-from-the-kids-discussion themes of sexuality, sexism, and more. It’s a holiday about how life can change on a dime and the joy of celebrating that unpredictability. Uncertainty during these times, anyone?
That Purim came the week LA shut down—as we started looking to Pesach (Passover) and we slowed down, awaiting a plague to pass—is so poetic and tragic at once.
Some lovely snaps and gifs are below feat. the Hamantaschen, Jessica, Rabbi Susan, Ellen, Rebecca, Zach, and my “fuck antisemitism” shirt. And yes the hamantashen desserts are definitely vaginas, because girl power: It took a Jewish Queen coming out of the closet to save the Jews.
Queen Esther… TBD, first woman of color President but in this moment, Elizabeth Warren, hashtag Girl Boss
Modechai… Joe Biden, totally not necessary but added to the story for some reason
The Evil advisor Haman… Definitely Stephen Miller but at Purim 2017/5777 it was that asshole Steve Bannon
King Ahasuerus… Dumb boy king who does nothing but party and eat and gets easily manipulated constantly while casually okaying mass death? I wonder.