Chag Sameach! Purim is right around the corner, and Scheck Hillel is prepared for it. It’s the first holiday that masks have been constant in- be it part of a costume or protecting from Covid. The school is getting everyone excited by kicking off the holiday with a Spirit Week!
Monday is a refreshing Hawaii-themed Beach Day. Tuesday is a day off, and Wednesday returns with a sports-themed day. Thursday is Throwback Thursday. The week culminates with Friday, Purim, and everyone wearing their own creative Purim Costumes. Sara Kurz, high school senior, explains, “Spirit Week is a really great way to keep students involved and engaged. It increases both school spirit and holiday spirit, and makes everyone look forward to Purim.”
The school is also preparing for Purim in classes. Both Judaic tracks, Yahadut and Beit Midrash, are implementing Purim-related units into their curriculums. Zachary Lemmer, junior, tells, “In Beit Midrash, we’re learning about the four mitzvot of Purim- reading the Megillah, giving Matanot L’evyonim, giving Mishloach Manot, and having a meal. We gained insight to those mitzvot through various stories in the Gemara.”
On Purim, there is a mitzvah to read Megillat Esther. The Megillah details the story of Esther, Mordechai, and Achashverosh, as well as how they took down the evil Haman. To commemorate this holiday, we dress up and fulfill specific mitzvahs, including reading the Megillah.
It is interesting to note that Hashem’s name is not mentioned a single time throughout the entire Megillah. This makes it seemingly possible to claim this story was nothing but a coincidence, pure chance- after all, the word Purim does mean “lots”. Lots is a game of chance.
However, in the end, we know that Hashem is behind the story, the same way that we know we are behind the masks we wear on Purim (and in day to day life, in these times). Many may wonder why we dress up on Purim. It can be explained that we are hidden behind our masks and our costumes, just like Hashem was during the story of Purim. His name may not have been mentioned explicitly, but the miracles that occurred and the survival of the Jewish Nation proves that Hashem was very involved.
There is a lot to learn from this in everyday life. We learn that just because one cannot see something does not mean it’s not there. We have to have faith and acknowledge that we don’t always know what is going on behind the scenes, and realize that there are always hidden factors causing things to happen in people’s everyday lives.
Purim is also unique in terms of who is obligated to keep its mitzvot. Purim has four focal mitzvot. The first is reading the megillah (twice- once in the morning and once at night). The second is sending mishloach manot- gift baskets, and the third is giving matanot la’evyonim (money to the poor). The fourth and final mitzvah is having a Seudah, a festive Purim feast.
Something interesting about these mitzvot is that they are very unique for women. As a general statement, women are not obligated to perform any positive, time-bound mitzvot. However, Purim’s mitzvot are one of the few exceptions. Women are obligated to perform Purim’s mitzvot.
Why is Purim different?
The reason that women are obligated to perform the mitzvot of Purim even though they are time bound is because women were so involved in the story of Purim. There are two ways to interpret this. According to Rashbam, Esther, a woman, was the true hero of the story, and hence women are obligated to do the mitzvot equally. Alternatively, Tosfos explains that the women and men were equally threatened by Haman’s decree, so they both should be obligated to perform the mitzvot.
We learn from this that each mitzvah in the Torah is unique. We can’t ever assume that one mitzvah is only applicable for a certain group of people- we have to dig deeper and uncover the reasoning behind the mitzvot in order to follow them as best we can. This is also pertinent in everyday life- one cannot make assumptions without proper education and research. One should look into things and think about both the bigger and smaller picture. Chag Sameach and Happy Purim.