Children in costume at previous Purim celebration. Courtesy photo
BY RABBI JACK SHLACTER
Los Alamos Jewish Center
Perhaps the most joyous of Jewish holidays is a minor festival known as Purim. The name is translated from the Hebrew word for “lots” based on an incident in the story of the holiday as told in the biblical Book of Esther. It is said that the casting of lots would determine which day would be chosen to annihilate the Jews during the reign of King Ahasuerus and his wicked viceroy, Haman, in the ancient land of Persia. With such a strong antisemitic theme, why did this become a joyous holiday? Undoubtedly, this is because the Jews were ultimately triumphant – there is indeed some truth to the joke that all Jewish holidays share the theme: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat,” or in the case of Purim, let’s eat and drink.
This year, the one-day holiday of Purim starts on the evening of Monday, March 6, and is traditionally celebrated by a public reading of the Book of Esther, exchange of gifts of food to friends, distribution of charity to the poor, and a festive meal. The story of Esther (cheer), Esther’s uncle Mordechai (yeah!), Ahasuerus, the deposed queen Vashti, and Haman (booo), is much like a melodrama, and audience participation during the reading is encouraged; noisemakers are distributed to ensure that the villain’s name is drowned out each time it is mentioned. There also developed a tradition of dressing in costume for the recitation of the Book of Esther. (My son was born just before Purim, and I remember wearing a hospital gown to the synagogue). More commonly, children dress up either as characters in the story or as whatever pop culture figure appeals.
The Los Alamos Jewish Center invites the community to a family-centric pre-holiday Purim Carnival on Sunday, March 5th starting at 3pm. There will be games for children, with prizes and treats, including the traditional triangular baked goodies known as Hamantaschen (said to resemble villain Haman’s three-cornered hat). Costumes are encouraged. At the tail-end of the holiday, on Tuesday night, March 7th, the Jewish Center will be hosting the reading of the Book of Esther at 6:30pm. The evening starts with pizza at 5:30, and more Hamantaschen cookies. Often, these delectables are filled with poppy seeds, but Los Alamos bakers have been known to provide green chile-flavored versions in the past. Who knows, there may even be Sierpinski Hamantaschen (https://seattlelocalfood.com/2011/03/20/sierpinski-hamantaschen-sierpinskitaschen/).
Please RSVP for the Purim Carnival at: https://bit.ly/LAJCPurim2023
Los Alamos Jewish Center, located at 2400 Canyon Road, is our community’s resource for Jewish worship, Jewish education, and Jewish life-cycle and social events. Contact the Los Alamos Jewish Center at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-661-2140, or at www.lajc.org