Martin Bodek, Co-founder of TheKnish.com, takes a humorous look about the Jewish holiday of Purim and it’s traditions.
Purim, which means “18th Amendment, my foot” commemorates the time Xerxes (the English translation of Achashverosh – easier to type, what with all the letters being on the left side of the keyboard and all) threw a party for his kingdom, which extended from Hodu until Kush (archaeologists have proven that these towns are like, two miles apart. Oooooh, big kingdom!), killed his wife Vashti for being ugly, threw a Miss Kingdom Pageant and settled on the Jewish girl.
Meantime, Haman (who, unless I’m confused, had a segulah for parnassah named after him) plotted to kill the Jews, but Xerxes found that Mordechai HaTzadik had once saved his life, so he had Haman treat Mordechai like royalty. Haman’s wife dumped garbage on her husband and Haman and his ten sons with unpronounceable names were literally hung out to dry.
Purim is celebrated with three specific rituals:
Megilas Esther – this means “Is it over yet?” While the ba’al koreh reads the megila, everyone is required to be absolutely silent, which is easy to do with people next to you muttering into their own megilas at cell-phone conversation level.
Before the laining we are required to donate a machatzis hashekel (“three Kennedy half-dollars”). Although the shekel probably has the most volatile value on earth, we’ll just have to pay $1.50 until the end of time. Nothing else on Earth refuses to be adjusted for inflation.
According to most Achronim, children are required to hurl party snaps and stink bombs that at the bare minimum should be capable of asphyxiating at least one-third of the congregation. Some poskim say half
Shalach Manos – this means “Oh great, now we have to make friends with the neighbors again.” Shalach Manos officially need to consist of two items that require different brachos. Shalachmanoseseses (what IS the plural anyway?) can range from a mini-Kedem grape juice and a bilkeleh (“rock”) to a 78-course meal that could feed a small army.
Matanos L’evyonim – This means, “Shnor breevlech come to life.” We are obligated to give tzedaka to the poor in Eretz Yisroel. We accomplish this by trusting everybody who asks us for money to trickle some over that way. It’s like when you soap your upper body in the shower and hope that at some point it’ll reach your feet.
Our exact participation in Purim is dictated by age:
Ages 1-4: Your parents dress you up in an embarrassing outfit that’s either too snug or too loose and get poo-poo-poo comments from the neighbors.
Your choices of outfit are: 1) Cow or 2) Duck.
Ages 5-12: You dress up in an outfit of your parent’s choosing and deliver Shalach Manos to your neighbors. Your neighbors are required to give you money. When I was a kid I got $1. Adjusted for inflation, the neighbors are now required to give you $24,321.87.
Your choice of outfit has now expanded.
For boys: 1) Rabbi, 2) Kohen Gadol, 3) Fireman, 4) Harry Potter or 5) Girl.
For girls: 1) Babooshka, 2) Princess, 3) Nurse, 4) Harry Potter or 5) Boy.
Ages 13-20: You’re done having your parents tell you what to wear and done delivering Shalach Manos for minimum wage. Now you do the honorable thing by representing your yeshiva by spilling out of limousines into heavy traffic, knocking over furniture in people’s houses before vomiting on their floors and ruining your prospects for a good shidduch.
Your choice of outfit has now exploded. When you were a kid, you came home with the same outfit you left with. But now, the outfit you dressed up in is not what you’re wearing when you come home. The outfit you started Purim with does not matter anymore. Now what matters is what your outfit is after Purim.
The choices are: 1) This isn’t my hat, 2) Is this MY vomit?, 3) How did I manage to get home? or 4) What do you mean I’ve been in a coma for 11 years?
Ages 21-AARP membership: You dress your baby up in silly costumes and hope the neighbors find your baby’s cow or duck costume cute enough to comment on, you pray your kid makes it home safely after dodging the zigzagging limousines and Hummers, you lock up your daughter and hope your son’s designated driver brings your boychick home in one piece and only faintly resembling a Grand Central Station hobo.
Your choice of outfit is: 1) silly substitute for your yarmulka or 2) silly substitute for your sheitel.
Ages AARP membership-120: You munch on some marzipan and wait for Shushan Purim, a slightly more relaxing day, what with the general populace home sick nursing hangovers and all.
Your choice of outfit is: 1) Social Security beneficiary (until 2018 or so, after that you’re on your own).