THE WAR ON PURIM
by Rabbi Neal Katz - Congregation Beth El - Tyler, TX
(The following is a joke in honor of the festive occasion of Purim.)
These past few months have been a trying time for our community. And little by little, we have let our voices become silent. And I believe that now is the right time to reclaim that which has been taken from us. Of course, I am talking about Purim.
This war on Purim can no longer stand! For too long we have been silent, as our friends and neighbors slowly disregarded the importance of this joyous holiday. They smile and wish us “happy holidays” - instead of greeting us with an outright and proper “Happy Purim!” They all know that it is the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar! They see the full moon in the sky – and they pretend that they do not know what holiday it is.
Why, just last week, I was at the Village Bakery purchasing hamantaschen - and the woman behind the counter wished me a happy holiday. Of course she knew I was celebrating Purim, and yet she wished me a generic happy holiday greeting. I had enough. So I confronted her on her rudeness. I asked her why she didn't specifically wish me “Happy Purim” – or even a “Chag Sameach.” She seemed shocked that I responded this way. And she made it clear to me – in her sweet East Texas drawl - that she was simply following company policy to wish everyone a happy holiday. She told me that in fact, in her heart, she wanted to wish me “Happy Purim,” but she was fearful of losing her job. Is this where we are as a community? Corporations stifling the joyous month of Adar and forcing our friends and neighbors to whitewash the holiday of Purim?
Another case in point. I visited a local Wally Party Supply store and I went down the aisle where they sell the groggers. And how were they labeled? As “noise makers!” I say again, “Noise makers!” Not groggers, but noisemakers! As if the clickity-clack of a grogger would be used for anything other than drowning out the name of Haman. Call them what they are! Groggers! I was so upset, that I began to cry. I complained to the manager – and as I yelled at her – I was waving a grogger around to demonstrate my point. She told me to put the grogger down and to stop making a scene – or she would have to call the police. I told her that she could have my grogger when she pries it from my cold, dead fingers. She said that if I did not like them whitewashing the name to “noisemakers,” then I could shop elsewhere. It’s a war on Purim!
Only last week, I went to Barnes and Noble and asked the young man behind the counter where I find a copy of the megilla. He took me to a shelf where the text was labeled, “Book of Esther.” I got red in the face. I asked him sternly why it said, “Book of Esther” and not “megilla.” He told me that after some community backlash – all Jewish texts were going to be referred to by their proper English names only. Oh Esther! Oh Mordecai! Please save us again from this injustice!
In one moment of possible relief to this “War on Purim,” Starbucks decided to honor the holiday with specially colored coffee cups. Starting on the first day of Adar, they were planning on serving their drinks in blue and white cups (Israeli flag colors) that said, “Happy Purim!” We were thrilled. But then the Palestinian community got upset and demanded parity. So in response to those complaints, Starbucks will also be serving cups that are colored green, red, white, and black (Palestinian flag colors.) Now, instead of a simple Purim celebration, Starbucks decided to play it safe with a Two Cup Solution.
What has our country come to? I remember days not too long ago when people used to wish each other Happy Purim in the streets. And public schools would provide hamentaschen during lunches (private schools did this as well – but they were called trinity pockets. Oy!) It used to be that mayors would stand in the town square and publically read the megilla – and it was covered by every media outlet. And how can we forget the Macy’s Purim Day parade – with large balloons of Esther and Mordecai and Vashti and Ahashureus floating over Fifth Avenue. All gone! All those balloons have been cut up and repurposed as Charlie Browns, Snoopys, and turkeys. Good grief!
And so it is time to reclaim what is ours! This war on Purim has to stop! Bring your hamentaschen to work and when everyone asks what you are eating – you tell them the story! Let us stand on the edge of the public school grounds and hand out megillas to every car in the student pick-up line! On the 14th of Adar, let us wear costumes and masks all over town – and when people ask why we are doing this – you teach them the lessons of the holiday. Let us get drunk in celebration of Esther’s victory over Haman. Let’s keep the Pour in Purim!
There is a culture war going on. And we need to reclaim the 14th of Adar as a day of celebration and joy. We cannot allow our precious Purim to be whitewashed into just another early-spring holiday. The battle lines have been drawn – and we will prevail. They may take our hamentaschen, but they can never take away our freedom.
Chag Purim Sameach—Happy Purim!