2017-03-16 / Faith
Purim festival’s joyous revelry brings timely message
It marks defeat of plot to kill the Jews
Jews across Thousand Oaks on March 12 celebrated the festival commemorating Queen Esther’s defeat of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews of Persia in fourth century B.C.E. Despite the somber story behind the holiday, the Esther “megillah,” or scroll, ends with instructions to gather and feast to commemorate the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.
Rabbi Richard Spiegel of Temple Etz Chaim likened the celebration to a Jewish Mardi Gras or Halloween.
“It is a moment on the Jewish calendar of pure joy,” he said.
Despite the apparent glee, he said the 2,000-year-old story of Jewish persecution is more relevant than ever as a rising tide of anti-Semitism has led to an increase in hate-related crimes in the Conejo Valley, including a February incident where notes with swastikas and derogatory messages were left at Chabad of Oak Park.
But support for the Jewish community has also grown, as over 400 people attended Etz Chaim’s Purim carnival Sunday.
The event was open to the public and featured typical carnival fare like bounce houses and a dunk tank but also had more specialized games, like Gefilte Go Fish.
High school senior Daniel Eidman donned a hot dog suit while hosting a basketball booth. He said the carnival, which is organized as a fundraiser for the temple’s youth program, is always a lot of fun but one thing about Purim stands out as his favorite—hamantaschen.
Hamantaschen, or “Haman’s pockets,” are a buttery cookie typically filled with poppy seeds or jam. They are a staple of Purim celebrations.
According to Rabbi Chaim Bryski of Chabad of Thousand Oaks, celebrating Purim consists of four mitzvahs, or commands: hearing the megillah, or scroll, of Esther read aloud; giving to the needy; sending gifts of food to friends; and eating a feast.
Chabad of Thousand Oaks hosted a dinner after its megillah reading on Sunday. Bryski read the 10 chapters of the Book of Esther before serving dinner and collecting donations for the less fortunate.
Bryski said the Book of Esther enjoys the distinction of being the only book in the Hebrew bible that does not refer to God by name.
God’s underlying presence is felt, however, and that saved the Jews of Persia 2,300 years ago.
He said it is a miracle that continues today.
“It’s a miracle that in 2017, the Jewish people still exist,” he said. “People wake up today and they think and talk with the Jewish values. The ideas of a vocation, ideas of social responsibility, the idea we have to care for each other, that there is one God we are all children of—these are radical concepts that originated with the Jewish people.”
Bryski’s wife and mother of his six children, Shula, said she loves Purim because of its message that everyone, no matter their station in life, has an important role to play.
“It’s not a story of long ago,” she said. “It’s a story of today.”