By Laura Seymour
Dear Parents and Children,
Purim is almost here and this is a holiday that requires some pre-planning and some “work” as we get ready to do the mitzvah of mishloach manot.
“When it comes to mitzvot, mishloach manot is a slam-dunk,” says my favorite Jewish educator Joel Lurie Grishaver. Each mitzvah is an opportunity, and Purim provides a wonderful way to celebrate and CONNECT! Most of us have a pretty good memory of the story of Purim, but the holiday comes with four easy and fun to do mitzvot: SLAM-DUNK JEWISH STYLE!
1. Hear the story — read the Megillah of Esther! This is a serious must read for parents because it is filled with intrigue, power plays and S-E-X!
2. Celebrate: Wear costumes, eat, drink and enjoy! Eating is crucial as in most Jewish holidays.
3. Give tzedakah to the poor — yet another opportunity to give to those in need.
4. Mishloach manot, gifts of food to send to friends.
The giving of mishloach manot is a special opportunity to reach out to others and, of course, there are traditional rules:
1. Begin by making your list of family, friends, teachers and all people who are important to you. This includes Jews and non-Jews.
2. Prepare your package of food by these “official Purim rules”: 1) These gift packages must include at least two different kinds of food; 2) that’s it — hamantaschen are traditional but not obligatory!
3. Create (or buy) a container for each and include a little card.
4. On or around Purim, hand deliver all the gifts. This step provides the real connection!
There are many “opportunities” for talking to children about this fun-filled holiday. Try a discussion on women as heroes, costumes/masks and hiding, standing up for ourselves when it is hard, and living in a diverse world. One of the most important values for Purim is “Courage — Ometz Lev.” The most interesting thing about the Hebrew phrase is that it translates as “strength of heart.” It is not just about being strong in a physical way but doing the right thing when it is hard. More than that, it is also about doing something new and different. Here are a few sections from an article titled “Giving Ourselves Permission to Take Risks” by Elizabeth Jones. The article was written primarily for early childhood but it is really a message for all of us.
“Courage, as we’ve learned from the Cowardly Lion, is a virtue that is hard to sustain. New experiences are often scary; we don’t know what will happen next or what we should do. Yet all new learning involves risk. We learn by doing — and by thinking about the past and the future.
“Risk is inevitable; it’s a requirement for survival. The challenge is to name it, practice it, enjoy the rush of mastery and bear the pain when pain is the outcome.
“A child who climbs may fall. But a child who never climbs is at much greater risk. Fall surfaces under climbers aren’t there to prevent falls, only to make them less hard. And hugging doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does make it more bearable.”
Now think of each of these quotes in relation to Esther’s bravery. What would you have done? Was her plan a good one? A risky one? A brave one? Think and have a great Purim.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.