by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
“Is it Saturday night yet?”
The question has been a daily refrain this week from my almost 4-year-old. She has the patience of a flea, and like many children, her anticipation grows as any major (or minor) holiday, birthday or event nears.
Saturday night marks the start of the celebration of Purim, a not-as-well-known yet incredibly fun Jewish holiday. It has all the elements of a fun time for an almost 4-year-old, including dressing up and getting gifts.
MyJewishLearning.com gives this great synopsis: “Purim, or the Feast of Lots, is a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period (539-330 BCE). The story of Purim is recounted in the Book of Esther, whose eponymous heroine plays the leading role in saving her people. The holiday is traditionally celebrated with wild abandon and with the giving of gifts to friends and the poor.”
Yes, this is another one of those they-tried-to-kill-us-we-survived-let’s-eat holidays, but with a twist. We get to dress up in costume — and beyond eating, we even get to DRINK. And I’m talking adult beverages here, people.
Purim is often described as the Jewish Halloween (cringe) because one of its most pervasive traditions is the one where children and adults dress up. The most popular costumes are usually characters from the Purim story, including the villain, Haman; the king, and of course, Queen Esther herself.
Those of you who know me know that I have a strong aversion to anything princess – and not just Disney. I will not buy anything that says princess on it, nor will it adorn my girls. (The irony here – my youngest’s name means “princess” in Hebrew). I think part of my adamant objection to it comes from a very derogatory term that was often used to describe Jewish women in the 80s and 90s (which I will not repeat here).
But if ever there was a time when I would want my girls to dress up like queens or princesses, it would be for Purim – because Esther was a true heroine who was brave, tough, and strong enough to speak out and use her power to save her people. And perhaps there is another reason – a 2008 US News article paraphrases a religion professor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln saying that she sees the Esther story as “teaching readers how to live as a minority within a gentile society, by cooperating with others but also by protecting and lifting up the Jews.”
Just when I actually *want* my almost 4-year-old to dress up as a queen, she’s wholeheartedly unimpressed. And she has another idea.
For the second straight year, she will be Clifford at Purim.
At least I still have the baby.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, is hoping there won’t be any of the goldfish prizes at the Purim carnival akin to what they had when she was a little girl. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.