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The Masks We Wear and the Masks We Remove...on Purim
Patrick Rothfuss, in “The Name of the Wind” writes, “We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”
There are many instances of hiding in the Purim story. The name “Mordecai” comes from the name of the strange god, “Marduk”, and perhaps he was named as such to hide his intense piety in a society that didn’t encourage it. Esther, too, was originally named “Hadassah,” but she changed it to “Esther,” which is reminiscent of the goddess “Ashtart,” and may also be a concession to her environment and to hide her Jewish identity. Esther disguises her motives and asks Haman and the king to two banquets. Two courtiers disguise their malevolent motives to kill the king. Even Achashverush hides his intention to assimilate the many peoples to his religion by intoxicating them with constant feasting. All these disguises and masks are eventually removed and the naked truth is revealed. Esther held as secret her Jewish identity. She covered it over with Persian coating. We, living in a modern and secular society, often do something similar.
A symbol of the masks worn by the characters is the hamantashen! Just as the Hamantaschen is sweetest in its inner core, it’s important for us to find expression for our Jewish essence, which we so often bottle within us.
Purim actually demads a removal of masks through its four mitzvoth. The mitzvah of “Shalach Manoth,” sending dainties to our friends, reminds our friends, family and neighbors of how they are valued by us, noticed and appreciated. So often we are oblivious of our neighbors and friends. Distractions, work obligations and deadlines have us “cattle chuted” to such an extent that we often don’t have the opportunity to meet with our friends and family, and they don’t see the “real” us–the part of us that values them.
Purim requires of us (with warm intent) to engage in the mitzvah of matnoth leevyonim, in which we seek out the poor who would appreciate a meal. We suffer from “tzedaka fatigue.” Many agencies send us emails, letters and phone solicitations, and we are so overwhelmed by them that we hide behind a mask of irritation and resentment.
This past Friday night/Shabbat, February 6th, we had a simply amazing Religious School Dinner, which was attended by in excess of 150 people! It was by far the largest turnout that I can recall for a Shabbat dinner at our synagogue in a very long time. What a joy it was having over 70 children of all ages present with their parents, all enjoying and experiencing a traditional Shabbat meal which included all of the traditional prayers, songs and customs that elevate our experience of Shabbat. There were many people involved in the planning and orchestration of this special event, thus guaranteeing its success. However, I would like to recognize Karen Schweitzer, who arranged many of the important details pertaining to this wonderful event. I would also like to recognize our totally dedicated and talented Education V.P. Melissa Kurtz for her ongoing efforts on behalf of our vibrant Religious School.
Our annual Cholent Shabbat is fast approaching and will take place on Shabbat/Saturday morning, February 28th beginning at 9:00 a.m. In past years, we have always a had a large, boisterous and hungry crowd in attendance, all of whom are attending lichvod Shabbat–to honor and enjoy Shabbat together. This year will certainly be no different! We will also celebrate our Daled & Hay Shabbat at the same time, which will absolutely enhance the service. These are our two senior classes in the Religious School and they will, without doubt, sing beautifully as they perform some of the prayers.
This year, I will be preparing a few different cholents as compared to past years. We will have chicken and beef, veggie and a special new brown rice cholent (my wife's recipe) as well. In addition, Amy Wisotsky will prepare some delicious kugels, we will have "homemade" gefilte fish, tuna, Israeli salads (babaganush, techina, chumus), pita bread, etc. I invite you to join us as we have a fabulous celebration of Shabbat in conjunction with a wonderful social event.
As is noticeable, I have focused on two particular events, both of which enhance our enjoyment and appreciation of Shabbat, but simultaneously, bring us together socially as a congregation and community! Both events also raise our awareness of the importance of the ENJC 's efforts to provide each and every congregant, young and slightly older, with the opportunity to pray and sing together, in conjunction with enjoying the warmth of sharing special times together. Read More
Hopefully, as you read this, the weather is beginning to warm up. Yet, as I write this article, sitting in my home office, I watch as once again the thermometer heads down toward zero. It’s hard to imagine right now, but I know that spring is right around the corner. Springtime means nice weather, an end to cabin fever, and the opportunity for you to take advantage of the many exciting events happening at the ENJC, particularly our Shabbat services and social occasions.
Over the past year the L’Chaim Club has come into being. The L’Chaim Club members gather after Saturday morning Shabbat services for a shot of scotch. The club started small with a handful of men. Soon, some of the women decided to try a taste and they joined the club as well. Our Shabbat group has lately grown to over fifteen men and women, joining together to celebrate Shabbat with a L’Chaim toast. So come on down and join us for Shabbat and the L’Chaim Club. We would love to see more of our congregants celebrate Shabbat with us.
On Friday evening, February 6th, ENJC held a Religious School Shabbat Dinner before services that was attended by over 150 adults and children. It was a wonderful evening and everyone had a great time. Amazingly, one hour after services had ended, over thirty people were still at the synagogue, enjoying one another’s company.
Another such opportunity to socialize and share Shabbat with fellow congregants comes on March 13th, when we celebrate Shabbat across America, beginning with a Shabbat dinner at 6:15 pm. I would love to see the ballroom filled with two hundred people or more, of all generations, enjoying a Shabbat dinner together.
With the onset of spring also comes Purim. We will be having our annual Purim Party on March 1st. Purim services will take place on March 4th and 5th. The Purim Party is always a fun time, with everyone in costume and noshing on hamentaschen. This year’s party will feature a DJ and dancing, games and dinner. And just think, Passover is right around the corner.
The coming spring months promise many fun and special opportunities that you can share with your family and fellow congregants. I look forward to warmer temperatures, and seeing you for a L’Chaim Shabbat toast and a hamentaschen or two. Read More