Between Happiness, sadness, costumes and identity

By: Mato Wexler

Purim is perhaps the most joyful holiday in the Jewish calendar, in Israel and in the world, Jews dress up in costumes, fill cities, communities and kenim with colors. These are days of celebration and above all joy. In Israel people go dressed up to their workplace, there are parades in the streets, neighbors, colleagues, friends and families exchange mishlochei manot. And what do we celebrate? Basically, what we celebrate on most of our holidays, that we are still alive as a people, that we were not defeated and we can celebrate the continuity of the Jewish people. The holiday of Purim is a tradition that both secular and religious Jews, no matter what stream they are from, celebrate in the same way.

However, this Purim that is about to begin, requires us to think and observe things differently, since October 7, 2023, Israeli society and the Jewish people are going through a moment of extreme complexity. The numbers representing dead civilians and soldiers, people kidnapped in Gaza, families destroyed by the loss of their loved ones or by the despair of having their loved ones kidnapped, multiple anti-Semitic attacks, demonstrations of hatred towards Jews and Israel and millions of human beings who share the anguish and pain.

On this Purim we ask ourselves if it is okay to celebrate and be happy because on the one hand, it is part of the tradition, but on the other hand, how to be happy when we are surrounded by so much pain and anguish.

The dilemma is complex, I believe that traditions are important for the identity of a people and celebrating is legitimate, even necessary. But I believe that in general, but in this Purim in particular, we should not celebrate just because it is Purim, just for the sake of celebrating. We should think about why we celebrate, who we celebrate for and who we are.

Sometimes wearing a “disguise” is meant to hide and protect and in other contexts it is an element to celebrate and a symbol of happiness.

In recent times, without being Purim, many of us go through life with a mask. We use a mask not to show what we feel, what we think, to hide our fears, anger and a lot of other feelings and thoughts in order to protect ourselves and also our environment, our children, our families, friends, etc.

I also know many cases in which we use masks to hide who we are, there are Jews in the world who feel threatened and prefer to hide their Jewish identity to protect themselves and their environment.

The question of identity and who we are, especially on this Purim, I think it is mandatory. I think that in order to celebrate these days, it is necessary to first try to take off our masks, to look at ourselves and understand that what is happening to us in recent times is also part of our identity as Jews, the horror that we live as a society and as a people is part of our history.

I think that in this Purim we should not only celebrate for what happened or did not happen according to Megillat Esther, but we should celebrate for what may happen and for what we can be from our Jewish identity. Celebrate by demanding the return of the more than 100 kidnapped in Gaza, celebrate by demanding that the families who had to leave their homes can soon return to their homes, celebrate by demanding that so much death and pain not be in vain. Let us celebrate so that together as a society and as a people we can build bridges that unite us from our differences.

May this Purim be an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and our environment, may the costumes be to celebrate without forgetting the responsibility we have to continue building our identity, our society and our people.

Chag Purim Sameach.

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