It Was a Great Purim After All

I didn’t mean to let the entire Purim holiday go by without a greeting on our blog! Today I was the designated parent at home with my son, who has the bug that is going around. I think I’ve caught it too. I feel achy and chilled.

It’s not a hangover, though it feels like one. It’s traditional to get wasted on Purim but that’s one tradition I didn’t think fit my lifestyle this year. Nope, I didn’t have anything alcoholic to drink at the megillah reading last night. (The megillah, newbie Judaism fans, is the biblical Book of Esther, written on a scroll and traditionally chanted in Hebrew. Some people call it “the whole megillah.”)

Purim is a great holiday if you like to party and act silly. This is the first year in about 20 that I haven’t contributed writing to a purimspiel, a play that parallels the plot of the Book of Esther and features contemporary satire. It’s performed at the megillah reading. I did appear in other people’s sketches in the one we performed last night. (I got to wear a black cape!) It was fun, but I was sad that my son couldn’t be there. He’s been gearing up for Purim for a couple of weeks at Hebrew school. He was excited to dress up and be in a play. He was too sick and my husband decided to stay home with him.

This morning, there we were with a pile of articles that need to be edited for IFF, a stir-crazy child and a huge box of sugary treats. My mom sent a special new noisemaker for the kid to use during the megillah reading, and he was making head-splittingly awful noise with it.

I remembered one year when I was little that my parents read us the Book of Esther in English translation instead of taking us to synagogue to hear it read in Hebrew. I decided we could do that.  We sat together companionably on the living room couch with tea and water for each of us to drink, and read it. Each time I got to the villain’s name I sang it out in the Hebrew pronunciation, like I was chanting from the scroll, and he whaled away on his noisemaker. With which my head was suprisingly, fine; I thank Advil Cold and Sinus.

I  learned a lot (get it? lot? Purim? lot? Because Purim means lots. These jokes work better with a certain small, hand-picked  audience) today. For one thing, I learned that it’s possible to get sick on Purim and not only on Simhat Torah. (In New England everyone gets sick on Simhat Torah. It’s cold in October.) I learned that the Jewish Publication Society translation thinks Haman was impaled on a stake, even though most other translations say hanged on a gallows. I learned that the violence in the book of Esther is less well-described than the clothing and the party decorations, and my son found The Song at the Sea scarier.  I learned that a tremendous number of my internet friends are non-Jewish fans of Purim, which touched me. Wish we could be in one place together celebrating!

I learned that my kid is just a fantastic person, ready to learn what I have to share.


Author: Ruth Abrams

Ruth Abrams