In observance of Purim, my school held a day-long celebration. Judaism for Dummies describes the holiday: “Take the Christian Christmas pageant, add a down-home Halloween and a couple bottles of wine, and you start to get a good idea of the Purim festival.” I’ve also heard it called the Jewish Mardi Gras. It was a really fun day. We had good food. We read the Megillah, which was actually very interesting. Jewish readers of mine are aware of the custom of noisemaking whenever the name of Haman is mentioned. It was really different for me, because Biblical text is at once so sacred and solemn. I guess I’m not used to it being interactive and fun. I was only able to follow along with the text, which students, faculty, and others delivered in Hebrew, because I listened for the names of “characters” in the Book of Esther. I must have been convincing enough, because one of the Hebrew teachers asked me if I could read Hebrew. I said no, but showed her that my copy had an English translation. It is a mitzvah to read and listen to the Megillah on Purim.
Aside from that, we all wore costumes. Purim is associated with mistaken identity. It seems to be customary to dress as someone else or as something opposite. Many of the 10th grade boys dressed as girls. Some of the kids just wore silly hats. I dressed as Ophelia. We seemed to have a few “Esther” bunnies running around (including our headmaster).
My favorite part (and from what I can tell, the most popular part of Purim) was the Purim Shpiels. The students did an excellent job with theirs — quite satirical, very funny. The faculty shpiel was better than I thought it would be after I saw the script yesterday. I guess when you have entertaining characters like I work with, that wasn’t hard. Both shpiels mocked members of the other group; i.e., the students mocked the faculty and the faculty mocked the students. I suppose, though I didn’t ask, that such is customary at our school.
One of my students gave me gift basket. That was really sweet. As I was driving home, it occurred to me that one might even call that an “Esther basket.” Har, har, har! But seriously, folks… you can learn more about Purim at these websites: