Increasing Joy

Published March 25, 2005, issue of March 25, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Purim, the festive day celebrated by Jews around the world this weekend, is a children’s holiday with very adult undertones. Recalling the famous victory recounted in the biblical Book of Esther, in which the Jews of Persia foiled a plot by the wicked viceroy Haman to destroy them, it is celebrated with costumes, noisemakers and unrestrained merriment. So unrestrained that adults are commanded by the Talmud to drink on Purim until they can no longer tell the difference between “blessed is Mordecai,” the Jewish elder who foiled the plot, and “cursed is Haman.”

But the holiday has a somber subtext. Haman, tradition teaches, was a descendant of Amalek, the tribe that harassed the Hebrew slaves escaping from Egypt. The Hebrews were ordered to exterminate Amalek, down to the last woman and child. Haman’s plot is described as payback for the failure to wipe out the tribe thoroughly enough. The Purim story ends with Mordecai’s followers turning the tables on Haman and exterminating him, his family and 70,000 of his followers.

In a month’s time, Jews will gather once again, this time at the Passover table, where they will celebrate their liberation from Egypt. During the Seder they will recite the text, “In each generation they rise up against us to destroy us.”

There are those among us who take those words very literally these days. They see enemies everywhere and friends nowhere. At times, in their overzealousness, they can even turn a friend into an enemy. These are dangerous times to be making such mistakes.

Now is a time to keep our wits about us. This Purim, let’s lift a glass to Mordecai. But let’s be ready the next day to tell the difference between real enemies and imagined ones.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.