The Jewish festival of Purim begins at sundown. It celebrates community life and specifically the deliverance of the Jews from a plot by the tyrant Haman to annihilate the Jews. The story, which is read at this time, is reported in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. Listeners whirl noisemakers every time they hear Haman's name in the story. Other activities include feasting, giving food (especially three-cornered cookies), making charitable contributions, and wearing masks and costumes. For a more extensive explanation, visit RitualWell.org.
In The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says of this Jewish holiday:
"Laughter is so important that Jews have institutionalized it into a holiday. Purim does more than celebrate the foiled attempts of anti-Semites everywhere, it makes us laugh at ourselves. The head of the famous Slabotka Yeshiva, on Purim, would dress up like a horse.
"It is interesting furthermore that we have made Purim, which celebrates the foiling of our enemies, into a time for laughter by dressing up like them. Zalman Shachter-Shalomi used to say that when the Purim play is over, all the actors get applause, but Haman, the villain, gets the most. Access to the most joyous part of ourselves comes through ritualized reminders that we are as bad as our enemies. On Purim we are enjoined to get so drunk we cannot even tell the difference. Indeed, only our ability to laugh at ourselves keeps us sane and from becoming like them."
To celebrate Purim with your Jewish brothers and sisters, try one of the following:
Have a party and set aside time to read funny stories (especially about bad guys and gals) and tell jokes. Make a lot of noise while you are together.
Watch your favorite black comedy — any movie that pokes fun at authority figures and allows you to laugh at yourself.
Remind yourself that you are as bad as your enemy in one way or another.