Jews celebrate the Purim holiday with costumes, parties, food and drink. Yet the festivities are meaningful and permeated with spirituality.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
Purim could be called a 24-hour party, an eating marathon, and a drinking marathon. Such descriptions are not without basis. As the book of Esther tells us: “. . . and the month which was turned to them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy. . .” (Esther 9:22).
Indeed, one is obligated to enjoy an elaborate meal. One is obligated (according to most accounts) to imbibe some alcohol. One is obligated to be happy and in a festive mood.
It is noted that the emphasis on feasting is not merely to celebrate our survival from Haman’s plot to exterminate the Jewish people. While this is true, perhaps the queue to indulge in feasting and drinking is from the story of Purim itself. The Book of Esther is filled with references to feasts and banquets, food and drink. In fact, the Purim story opens with the six-month-long party that King Achashverosh threw for his subjects.
That said, it was partying that actually got the Jewish people into trouble in the first place. That was because the Jews also participated in Achashverosh’s feast. Although we are told that the Jewish participants all received kosher food, the party was not in keeping with Jewish moral standards. So, too, our sages tell us that Achashverosh’s party was essentially a celebration of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and by extension, celebrating rebellion against God!
We are told that the true purpose of a feast, banquet or any elaborate party is to bring people together. To create bonds of friendship and unity. When this is the case, the party is certainly worthwhile and can even become a holy gathering. Unfortunately, Achashverosh’s party accomplished none of that.
The celebration of Purim must be a celebration of unity and brotherhood. It must be an appropriate Jewish response to the party of Achashverosh and serve as an example to the destructive parties that are unfortunately so common nowadays.
On Purim, we celebrate with a spiritual purpose and spiritual intentions. The goal is to strengthen our bonds with others and with God. Make sure your Purim is a meaningful experience!