On Thursday, March 8, Jews around the world celebrated Purim to commemorate the Jews of the ancient city Shushan and their deliverance from the destructive plot of Haman. Probably considered the most joyous of Jewish holidays, it is famous for its costumes and excess of wine we are commanded to drink. Zany traditions and customs circulate the holiday. However, the distinction between my experience of Purim in Israel to the experience of Purim at Milken is what intrigues me most.
To begin, we must keep in mind that since there is no Halloween in Israel, Purim is the one day for Israelis to dress up and go crazy. Both at school and on the streets of Tel Aviv, I encountered people dressed in all types of costumes – funny, scary, Purim-themed – which were nearly identical to our Halloween costume habits.
There is a lot more to Purim than just costumes though. At Milken, we only celebrate Purim for one day. On that day, nearly the entire student body dresses up in costume, eats hamantaschen, watches the Purim shpiels during a fun assembly, and generally has a good time.
In Israel, I was delighted to see that our Purim celebration started about a week before the actual day of Purim. We were all given secret buddies to give special daily gifts to and each day had a themed costume, such as dressing up like one’s Madrich. I felt that this was a great way to build up excitement and prepare for our actual Purim celebrations, which took place from Wednesday night to Thursday night.
Although it may seem that after doing Purim-related activities for a week the actual Purim festivities would be less fun and meaningful, but I thought it was the opposite. Having never experienced Purim anywhere else besides Los Angeles and Milken, the “prep-week” increased the suspense as to how Purim is celebrated in Israel. And I certainly was not disappointed.
On Wednesday night, all of the students dressed in their costumes and filed into the Beit Knesset, where we read the Megillah. Afterwards, we presented our very own Purim Shpiel. There was a costume contest, trays of hamantaschen, music by Milken’s very own DJ Winterfresh, dancing and a great time had by all.
What if we expanded the festivities at Milken slightly to mimic Israel’s celebrations? The week building up to the big day of Purim can be filled with little activities to celebrate and keep people on their toes. It would not only be a fun way to celebrate the holiday, but it would also greatly reduce stress and allow the students to fully enjoy the holiday of Purim.
According to the Gemara, we are supposed to drink so much wine that we cannot tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. Obviously we cannot take this tradition literally, but the point is that we should have an extraordinary time during Purim. No matter how small the things we do to prepare for the big celebration, it would be nice to do something to set the time apart from the normal week and make it known that we are getting ready and excited for Purim.