Purim is a confusing chag. Like many chaggim, it’s when we remember a story from our collective past, and like many other Jewish stories it includes a pretty substantial amount of suffering. But why on Purim, remembering a time when Haman literally wanted “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” do we celebrate like no other time in the Jewish Calendar? Is it because we survived, we made it out the other side? It could be, but then why don’t we celebrate like that on all the other chaggim that celebrate our liberation? Or even on Shabbat when we literally reflect on the existence of literally everything, we celebrate existing.
I read a great reflection that said the reason Purim is different is because Purim is when we grew up and owned our Judaism. Purim isn’t just about connecting to the Jews of the past, it’s about us, it’s about connecting to the Jews of today.
One early Halachic authority (Halachot Gedolot, end of Hilchot Megillah) says: “Purim is greater than the day on which the Torah was given.” Purim is the day that we took the Torah. And when we take ownership, everything becomes different.
The next thing to say would be about how we can reflect on this and understand it in our current lives. Staying in the spirit of Purim of course, we could talk about how important it is to celebrate, feast and party (in a responsible and healthy way), celebrating each other and the things we have in life. Alternatively, we could talk about tzedakah and the act of giving generously and without question, as on Purim if you are asked for tzedakah you must give without any further questions.
However, I’m going to focus on the idea of taking ownership. Firstly, what does it even mean to take ownership of being Jewish? At least for me, I was born Jewish, grew up Jewish, I clearly am Jewish so what more do I need? I believe we need to do what the Jewish people did in the story of Purim and take ownership over our Judaism. Be active and make thought out decisions about your Judaism. This will look different for everyone, but should be meaningful and important. If it isn’t then perhaps something is missing. In today’s world it can be harder and harder to work out exactly what that is. But in Judaism there are always people to help you work that out. Find a Kehila, a community, to help you find meaning, and discover how to take ownership over your Judaism.
For me that very clearly has been growing up in Habonim Dror. My experience in the movement not only helped me shape my Jewish Identity but helped me find meaning in my Judaism. It’s not obvious for me to be an active Jew, having grown up in a country with 7,000 Jews (Aotearoa New Zealand) before moving to the UK, and been given many opportunities to go down other paths. But after 15 years in Habonim Dror (or my whole life if you count being born on a movement Kibbutz) there is nothing that can be more obvious.
Not only do I feel it is my responsibility to be constantly growing as a Jew, but to help other do so too. Now is a great time to understand how to do so, whether it’s through Habonim Dror, or another meaningful connection.
Chag Purim Sameach, enjoy the celebrations and be safe and responsible in doing so, you all deserve to be celebrated and remind your friends and family they do too!
⁃ Adi Rothman Berman, Bogeret