Happy Purim!!! In between shaking your grager and nibbling your hamantaschen, take a moment to savor this new blog from Be The Narrative. We can debate which filling is better, almond or poppyseed, but there’s no denying that our new blog will be stuffed full of deliciousness. In the coming months we’ll share stories from our Student to Student program around the country, hear from teens and coordinators, talk about the Jewish holidays, and explore topics connected to our work with high schoolers sharing their Jewish identities. If you have an idea for a blog post, or want to be a guest writer, send an email to Fawn (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rabbi Andrew (email@example.com). We would love to share your thoughts!
Purim is one of the happiest days of the Jewish calendar. We celebrate the day when the Jews of Shushan (a city in the ancient Persian empire) escaped destruction at the hands of the evil Haman, an advisor to the king. Haman drew lots (from which we get the name of the holiday, Purim) to decide which day would be the last for the Jewish people in his town. Earlier in the story, Esther, a brave young Jew, had won a contest to be the new queen of Shushan. She had hidden her Jewish identity from the king but revealed herself in a dramatic confrontation with the king and Haman. With the help of her uncle Mordecai, she stood up for her people and saved the Jews of Shushan.
The tale of Purim is told in Megillat Esther (scroll of Esther), which we read aloud in our Purim celebrations. We cheer when we hear the names of our heroes Esther and Mordecai and boo to drown out the name of Haman. Traditionally we also send gifts of food and sweets to friends and family, make donations to help those less fortunate, and come together for a special Purim seudah (festive meal).
The celebration of Purim is meant to be light, fun, and joyful with costumes, games and treats. But the text we read is filled with complexity layered beneath the surface. There are tales of parties, overindulgence, and palace intrigue, but there is no mention of God in this biblical text. Scholars look at the Purim text and try to peel back the layers to look for hidden meaning, like Esther’s hidden Jewish identity, and we read the story every year to be inspired by her bravery and desire to stand up for her people.
What is the miracle of Purim? Not some supernatural Divine intervention, rather the miracle is Esther’s courage in revealing her Jewish identity and her call for justice for her people. It can be scary to share who we really are, with all our vulnerabilities and our secrets. Sometimes we fear what people may say or think of us. Esther’s story is here to inspire us to share our own stories and identities and know that sometimes what is deep within us is the very thing the world needs.
At Be The Narrative, we know the power of teens sharing their Jewish stories with the world. Like Esther revealing herself to the king, when we share our true selves with others, we break down prejudice and stereotypes and build understanding and trust. While I’m shaking my grager tonight at every mention of Haman, I’ll also be thinking about the work of Be The Narrative and our Student to Student program and how vital it is that we stand up proudly and share our Jewish narratives… just like Esther.