Thursday, March 16, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Talia Raich on Purim

Happy Purim!

You might be wondering why you are all here today. Obviously, it’s my Bat Mitzvah, but there’s another reason. From the very first time I began to think about my Bat Mitzvah, I really wanted it to happen on Purim. That is because it’s my favorite holiday.

Also, some of my favorite early childhood memories involve Purim.  I remember one year at the JCC when my Zaidy dressed as a clown. At the time, it wasn’t that funny, but looking back I can’t stop from laughing. Another memory I recall is being here when I was younger, in a pink fairy costume.

Why do I love Purim so much?

First of all, the obvious reason, is that it’s so much fun!

Also, most Jewish holidays have lots of rules. Think of Passover and how hard it is just to prepare for that holiday before it begins. Not with Purim, which has very few rules and is much easier to get ready for… although this year I’ve done quite a bit of preparing for it.

Another reason I love Purim is because, while it’s a lot of fun, Purim also brings out our caring side. Two of the four main Mitzvot on Purim involve caring for others:  Matanot L’evyonim, gifts or money given to the poor, and Mishloach Manot, the food baskets that we bring to our friends.  In fact, Purim is much like Halloween, with costumes, parties and candy.  But in another way, it’s the exact opposite.  On Halloween, people go from door to door to take things, while on Purim, we go from door to door to give gifts away.

But the thing that I like most about Purim is that the story features my favorite Jewish role model: Esther. 

One of the reasons that she is my favorite is that she saved the Jewish people. That might not sound new to you but because she was a woman, and the time period it is pretty remarkable.

Also, she really steers the story and doesn’t need to be in the shadow of the king or Mordechai!

In my preparations for today, I looked at some midrashim, commentaries, about Esther.   Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah.   The Gematria for Hadassah – in other words, the numerical value, is 74.  Some midrashim say that that was her age when she got married to the king.  It’s interesting, because you would expect that someone who had just won a beauty contest and gotten married, would have been much younger.  When I think of Esther, I imagine someone who is younger than that, and looks like the stereotypical queen.

The rabbis talked about Purim as a day where everything is turned upside down.  They said, “Hafoch ba.” “Turn it over and over.”  So back to Esther, her age is the opposite of what we would expect.  Even her name, Esther, is actually her Persian name. But today, Esther is considered a Jewish name.

My mitzvah project also has a Purim theme.  I’ve put together 32 Mishloach Manot baskets that are going to be distributed to people in need.  Also, tonight and tomorrow, I am doing a food drive for the Kosher Food Pantry.

I already mentioned two of the four main Mitzvot on Purim, Matanot L’evyonim and Mishloach Manot.  But there are two others that are also important.  One is to hear the Megillah, And the other is to celebrate, with lots of food and fun. All of the Mitzvot are going to be fulfilled tonight. So now you can see why I was so excited to have my bat mitzvah on Purim. 

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