Purim is almost here — I hope you bought your costumes the day after Halloween! As we prepare, there are a number of things to do:
1. Begin your mishloach manot preparations. The gift of food is an important mitzvah on Purim, and all of us are obligated to send at least one gift of food to another person. This gift, usually called shalach manot, must consist of at least two types of food that are ready to be eaten, i.e., that require no cooking. This is definitely a family event for planning, preparing and delivering. We are also obligated to give gifts of money to at least two poor people — matanot l’evyonim. This is a good time to make a family donation.
2. It is also time to get out your Megillah and read the story. As our children grow, we adapt the story to their understanding, but first we must understand the story ourselves. The Book of Esther is definitely a book for grown-ups so don’t miss out on the intrigue and s-e-x. There are many commentaries — so Google!
3. For older children and teens, issues of Jewish identity and anti-Semitism are both themes in the Megillah, so Purim is a good time to talk about these issues. Here are some questions taken from “The One Hour Purim Primer” by Shimon Apisdorf that are good discussion starters:
- Have you ever felt uncomfortable or unaccepted because you were Jewish?
- Are you proud of being Jewish? If the answer is yes, ask the reason why. If the answer is no, ask the reasons 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, risking your job, a large fine, six months in jail or being denied admission to college? (These were some of the possibilities many years ago in the Soviet Union.)
- Generally speaking, do you think religion is a positive force in the world or a negative one?
- What contributes to your Jewish identity? Parents? School? Friends? Israel? Etc.?
After you do the preparations for Purim, go to your synagogue and celebrate — it is a great holiday filled with fun, food and friends!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.