Purim is almost here. Though this is a fun holiday that carries with it a festive atmosphere as we celebrate Esther’s bravery, this holiday also requires some preparation and thought to make it truly meaningful. Certainly get your costumes and groggers ready, and dust off those hamentaschen recipes. But also take time to do the following:
Prepare food for giving
We are obligated to send at least one gift of food to another person during Purim; and this gift must consist of at least two types of food that are ready to be eaten — in other words, they require no cooking. This is definitely a family event for planning, preparing and delivering.
In addition to sending gifts of food, we’re obligated to participate in the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim, donating funds to at least two poor people. Think about making this a family donation either directly to homeless individuals or through charities that work with homeless and low-income families.
Read the Purim story
We are mandated to read and/or listen to a reading of the Megillah, the Purim story. Keep in mind that the Book of Esther has a great many mature themes; some of the racier portions will need to be adapted to reflect the understanding and sensitivity of younger children. Also make sure you understand the story yourself — there are a variety of online commentaries concerning the Megillah, so take advantage of them and read.
This is also a good time of year to discuss issues of Jewish identity and anti-Semitism, especially with your older children. Both of these themes are prevalent throughout the Megillah and Purim makes it easy to bring up such issues.
In his book “The One Hour Purim Primer,” Shimon Apisdorf suggests the following to start conversations:
Have you ever felt uncomfortable or unaccepted because of your Judaism?
Are you proud of being Jewish? If yes, why? If no, Why not?
Do you think it could ever become dangerous for Jews to live in the United States? Why or why not?
If it was against the law to celebrate Purim, would you celebrate anyway? Would you risk your job, a large fine, six months in jail or even being denied admission to college to celebrate this festival?
Generally speaking, do you think religion is a positive or negative force in the world?
Talk about your Jewish identity and what contributes to it. Parents? School? Friends? Israel? Anything else?
After you prepare for Purim, enjoy! Go to your synagogue and celebrate — it is a great holiday filled with fun and food and friends!
Laura Seymour is director of Camping and Youth Services at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.