Definitions of davvenen
More Than Meets The Eye

Preparing (or not) for Purim

Of all the holidays in the wheel of the Jewish year, I think the only one I've never written about is Purim. I have vague memories of cranking my grager in shul during readings from the Megillat Esther as a kid, and I'm sure I went in costume, but it wasn't a big holiday for me. In college, I was briefly interested in feminist attempts to redeem Vashti (whose actions, after all, made a fair amount of sense to me once I thought about them: I wouldn't want to be ordered to dance nude for my husband's guests, either), but the holiday failed to grab me in a meaningful way.

Like Chanukah, it's a "they-tried-to-kill-us, they-failed, let's-eat" holiday. At Purim, we're encouraged to overindulge, to become so drunk we can't tell Mordechai (the good guy) from Haman (the bad one). For my friends and family members who eschew secular festivals like Hallowe'en and Mardi Gras, Purim becomes the big dress-up holiday of the year. I've heard tell of Purimspiels so irreverently hilarious they approach the transcendent humor of early Saturday Night Live. Lilith ran an interesting article several years back, which suggested that hamentaschen (usually considered to represent Haman's tricornered hat) are actually a holdover from an earlier Goddess-festival which involved consumption of yonic foods.

Okay, fine, but I'm still not itching to dash out and celebrate this year. I don't like hangovers, I'm not big into costuming, I've never seen a decent Purimspiel, and recovering Goddess-worship festivals, while interesting, isn't really my bag. So what does Purim hold for me? I actually feel a little bit guilty about my lack of interest; it's the one holiday absent from my writing-your-own-Jewish-rituals book manuscript. I'm a self-proclaimed liturgy geek, and yet this holiday just doesn't turn me on.

Maybe if I had children, I'd be more inclined to make something of Purim. I like the idea of synagogues -- usually places of reverence -- becoming raucous and goofy for an evening, and I remember feeling as a kid that I'd take any excuse to play dress-up. And maybe if I felt more repressed in everyday life, the chance to bust out (costumes, noisemaking, revelry, drunkenness) would sound more appealing. But as things stand now, all attempts to make Purim timely and meaningful aside, I just can't sink my teeth into the holiday.

At least I can still sink my teeth into some tricornered cookies. When in doubt, celebrate via food.