Esther a scintillating story, if you read between the lines

Dear Parents and Children,
For most of us, the holiday of Purim is a children’s holiday and it is a wonderful one.
However, the problem is that most of us have only read the “children’s version” of the “Book of Esther. If that is true for you, boy, have you missed out on a great story!
The Megillah of Esther is a powerful story with many important lessons. As teachers of young children (and parents are the most important teachers!), it is crucial that we understand and learn on an adult level so that we can teach our children.
Please read the book but look for these passages highlighted below to enhance your celebration and discussion this Purim.
The book of Esther
• The whole book is an exciting story of intrigue, killing and sex — perfect for adult reading (but you do have to read between the lines!).
• Vashti refuses to dance! — the refusal was problematic because the king’s advisers said, “This very day the ladies of Persia, who have heard of the queen’s behavior, will tell their husbands, and there will be no end of scorn and provocation.” So what really was the concern over Vashti’s refusal? This is a great lesson for our daughters on their right to refuse (although there are some who would disagree with me!).
• Mordecai tells Esther to go to the king: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s houses will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis .” First, we are all part of the Jewish people and we suffer together but also celebrate together. Most important, each of us has our moment to rise to the challenge — Esther was lucky to be in the position to be the hero!
Purim is a holiday of fun to remind us of the presence of God in Jewish history although the Book of Esther is the only book in the Tanach in which God’s name never appears. Our survival depends on our commitment to each other.
And now, how do we celebrate this holiday? “When it comes to mitzvot, shalach 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 dunks, 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. Shalach manot, gifts of food to send to friends.
Of course, there are traditional rules:
• Begin by making your list of family, friends, teachers, and all people who are important to you. This includes Jews and non-Jews.
• Prepare your packages of food by these “official Purim rules”: These gift packages must include at least two different kinds of food. (That’s it — hamantaschen are traditional but not obligatory!)
• Create (or buy) a container for each and include a little card.
• On or around Purim, hand-deliver all the gifts. This step provides the real connection!
There are so many “opportunities” for talking to our 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. Ask your children, your friends and yourself: Who is the real Purim hero? Esther, Mordecai, Ahasuerus, God?
Laura Seymour is the director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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