This past week, I had the pleasure of baking hamantaschen, singing Purim songs and telling the story of Esther with a number of Jewish elders throughout our Atlanta community.
We often tend to think of Purim as a family or children’s holiday, however, the JF&CS Chaplaincy department thought it might be a good idea to bring the celebration to some of our seniors. And we’re so glad we did.
Watching our participants roll the dough and fill the pastry, some with family members, there was a sense of joy and nostalgia that filled the room. Perhaps the experiences could best be summed up by a woman who stopped in to see what was going on. She bit into the freshly baked poppyseed hamantaschen, and paused to take in the smell and the taste. Her sweet smile and the look of satisfaction said it all. “Umm, this is so good.”
In case you need a refresher: Purim recalls the story of the Jews of Persia, living under the rule of King Ahasuerus. Haman, the King’s prime minister, plots to exterminate all of the Jews of the region. Yet the plan is foiled by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai, who ultimately save all of the Jews from destruction. The reading of the megillah is typically a rowdy affair: we dress in costumes, boo and make noise when Haman’s name is read aloud, eat and drink and have a good time
The rabbis teach: “When Adar enters, joy increases.” Adar is the Hebrew month during which Purim occurs. With this statement, we anticipate the fun which will ensue in our celebration of Purim.
Therein lies one of the themes of Purim: Joy. As a result of the Jew’s victory, we joyously celebrate our survival against all odds. The rituals bring us together to share fun and laugher, and yummy treats.
Purim is an opportunity to briefly set our worries and stress, our cares and sadness aside and immerse ourselves in joy. No matter our age, we each have the opportunity to become immersed in the reading and the rituals, the costumes and levity, and of course, nosh some hamantaschen.
May you celebrate a joyous Purim!
Rabbi Judith Beiner
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