Sunday, March 20, 2011
A Jewy Princess PURIM!
I nearly missed Purim this year, since my hot date apparently does not do Synagogue. Purim: a festival celebrating the bravery of a single Jewish GIRL.
Esther lived in Persia, in the realm of King Ahashuarus. A-xha-shu-air-us. It is fun to try to pronounce this. The first "h" gets the gutteral throat-clearing sound we don't have in English.
Esther was selected from all the beautiful girls of the realm to replace the former Queen, Vashti.
To win a beauty pageant - a Jewish princess dream! But a mixed blessing: Vashti lost her head as well as her job for displeasing the King, so Queen Esther's bravery is all the more courageous.
The King's right-hand advisor, Haman, was really very evil. Haman convinced the King to have all the Jews in the kingdom put to death after one Jew refused to bow down to the advisor in the street. Judaism commands us not to bow to humans. We only bow to God. To do otherwise is idolatrous. However, to knowingly displease someone as evil as Haman also takes an act of high bravery. Or chutzpah. Or both.
Coincidentally, that Jew was Mordechai, Esther's cousin. But then again, is anything really a coincidence?
Esther hatched an elaborate plot to save her people. The plan involves Esther missing three days of meals, but I like to think she loses three pounds and fits into her favorite dress again. It might have been the sight of Esther in the dress that saved Esther's head and her people. You never know! Haman - of course - gets what he deserves. Mordechai gets to go horseback riding in the King's robe. Don't ask. I love this story because justice does win the day. And, this is one of the very few stories of my faith - along with the stories of Deborah the judge/warrior, and Miriam and Puah, Moses' sister and midwife respectively, each of whom had a hand in saving Moses' life - where a female emerges as the heroine.
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But back to where we started. I almost missed Purim this year, since my hot date last night did not want to stop by the Synagogue. The conversation went something like this:
"What do you want to do this evening?" (him)
"Well, do you mind if we stop in at the synagogue? It's Purim and I want to see what's happening there." (me)
"THE SYNAGOGUE? NO! REALLY? I DON'T DO SYNAGOGUE." (panic)
"Yes. Really. It's Purim. I like Purim. People dress up in costumes. They put on funny plays. They drink a lot, at least at the adult party, and they eat funny little three-cornered cookies stuffed with prunes or apricots or chocolate or if I'm really lucky, cherries. I like doing Jewishy stuff."
"You were married to a non-Jew." (Are you imagining a whiney voice that sounds a lot like an accusation? If not, please do over.)
"Yes, and you notice, I'm now dating only Jews. This could be an issue for us. Did you know Purim is the only holiday we're commanded to drink until you can't tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman?"
"Really?" (easing on the panic somewhat)
I'll forgo the rest of the conversation, and simply say that we did NOT end up at the Synagogue - I don't believe in dragging people kicking or screaming into the abyss.
So I was really excited when I opened my email this morning and found a link to an animated version of the Purim Shpiel (story) written and performed by one of my favorite young Jewish comedians, the Hebrew Mamita, Vanessa Hidary. If ever there is a brave Jewy princess, Vanessa is she. She speaks out about things - Jewish things, Feminist things - that others only mutter under their breath. She exemplifies my idea of a strong, young Jewess, and it is very fitting that she portrays Esther in the animation below.
So, date be damned, I did not miss the reading of the Megillah (scroll with the story in it) after all, albeit in English, highly censured kids' version.
I thought I'd share it with you here. I must confess, it's written for kids and it's not as funny as Vanessa usually is. SO... for your listening pleasure, I've embedded a few of her funnier ones just below.
Vanessa's signature piece:
Ph.D in "HIM"
God Bless You, Ma
You can find more on YouTube, or at http://www.hebrewmamita.com/