In the early days of the pandemic, I recall feeling a strange sense of unreality as Jewish holidays approached. Could there really be a Passover if 30 people weren’t descending on my apartment for our family seder? Could there really be a Tikkun L’eil Shavuot if 3,000 people weren’t swarming the JCC for all-night learning? How on earth could there be Rosh Hashanah if I wasn’t at my beloved synagogue (and also, I should point out, no need to buy a new dress, either)?
And yet, we found ways to celebrate. The holidays come whether we are prepared for them or not, and we turned out to be more resilient than I expected. Technology certainly helped for those who felt comfortable using it, and people got very creative about finding new and, in some cases, quite profound ways to mark our freedom from Egypt, receiving the Torah, marking a new (and hopefully better) year.
So Purim is coming. This holiday is, of course, all about laughter and merriment, whose central ritual is hearing Megillat Esther, the crazy story of a despotic ruler who planned to kill all of the Jews, only to be saved by the heroine, Esther. Laughter and merriment? Is such a thing possible right now, as our country contends with the pandemic, the economy, and political turmoil? But here’s the thing. My granddaughter wants a costume. She wants hamantaschen (really, she does!). My sister proposed to spend the entire day making the gift bags, called mischloach manot, and driving around to deliver them to our family and friends. This year, I propose we make those bags not only for those we love, but for every hospital worker, Uber driver, grocery store owner, and, yes, as I have written about, every nurse who is giving vaccines right now. Get busy—a lot of people have sustained you during this time.
So by all means, go on Zoom to hear the reading of the megillah. Buy costumes for your children and grandchildren. Bake or buy goodies and share them abundantly. Because Purim is coming. It was here before the pandemic and it will be here after this terrible plague is over.
Laughter and merriment? Maybe more subdued, but, I promise you, the people you send mischloach manot to will be smiling from ear to ear. And maybe, this year, that will be enough.
Rabbi Joy Levitt
Community Hamantaschen Bake
Sun, Feb 21, 10–11:30 am, Free
StorySLAM: The Masks We Wear—A Night of Intergenerational Storytelling
Tue, Feb 23, 7–8:30 pm, Free
Purim for Kids!
Thu, Feb 25, 4–5 pm, Free
Purim Celebration for the Families of the JCC
Thu, Feb 25, 5–6 pm, Free
Virtual Improv: Purim Costume Social
Thu, Feb 25, 6:30–8 pm, Free
Masks-On: The COVID-19 Purim Shpiel
Thu, Feb 25, 7–8 pm, Free
LGBTQ Purim Bash
Thu, Feb 25, 7–8:30 pm, Free
Annual Generation R Purim Celebration for Russian-Speaking Families
Sun, Feb 28, 3–4 pm
Looking to learn the basics of Purim? Here's a five-minute primer.
Let’s talk about ways to make Purim a feminist holiday. Here is Vashti and Esther: A Feminist Perspective. How can we use the holiday of Purim to share women’s stories? Check out this remarkable Purim campaign by Jewish Multiracial Network, Jewish Women’s Archive, and Repair the World.
Is food the highlight of Purim for you? If you think hamantaschen are boring, try these recipes! Jazz them up with sweet flavors like gingerbread, cheesecake, or baklava, or savory ones like French onion soup, basil-goat cheese, and empanada. Check out these Purim sweets and stories from the Jewish Food Society.
Finally, here are some fun ways to learn more and celebrate Purim. How about the megillah (Book of Esther) in Hebrew, English, and emojis? We got you! Also, check out these Purim mad libs, easy costumes for kids, and how to DIY a grogger.
Purim Resources from 18Doors: