Purim. Ah! Memories, Memories

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” ~Elie Wiesel

Culture & Society

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TORONTO. March 16/23 – Purim is undoubtedly one of the happiest holidays on the Hebrew calendar. For it remembers a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story of Purim is found in the Book of Esther. It is set at the time when Achashverosh (Ahasuerus) was king.

To summarize. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia who became queen, and her cousin Mordechai, who not only raised her after her parents died but told Esther not to reveal to the king that she was Jewish.

The villain of the story is Haman, a down-right conceited, narcissistic counsellor to the King who demanded, as it is told, Mordechai bow down to him. Mordechai refused and upon learning that Mordechai was Jewish, Haman decided to exterminate all the Jews in the Persian Empire. He plotted to kill them—convincing King Achashverosh to go along with the plan—and cast Purim (“lots,” plural of pur), a kind of lottery, to determine the day on which he would carry out his evil deed, that being after sundown on the 13th of Adar in the Hebrew calendar, (late winter/early spring). This year Purim took place from the evening of Monday, March 6 to the evening of Tuesday, March 7.

Sounds familiar?

If you are unfamiliar with the details of the story and how it concludes, you may find the following link useful. Click here

Today there is a spirit of liveliness and fun on Purim that is unmatched on the Hebrew calendar. It is also customary for children (and adults, if they desire) to dress up in costumes.

And this is where our friend Kitty Wintrob’s story begins.

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By Kitty Wintrob

Memories, Memories

What Purim fun! Making costumes and modeling them at the shul Purim party.

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It was a huge task but proved well worth every minute spent on it, well worth the effort.

One of the first times, I decided to do Fiddler. It was the time of the film’s release. For Ralph, my husband, to be Tevye, I made him a beard and stuffed a pillow under his shirt. He looked like a farmer, but with tzitzit* sticking out from his waist. I went as Frume Sara wearing a white sheet from head to foot and a white shower cap on my head, looking like a ghost. My children Suzanne and Philip I made into Hasidim**, with imitation fur hats, and long sidelocks.

We were a hoot and made quite an impression in the Purim parade.

Another year, I decided we should go as characters from The Wizard of Oz. Suzanne would go as Dorothy, holding a toy dog. I made her a red and white gingham dress and parted her long hair in two bunches. For Philip to be The Oil Man, I made a funnel from cardboard and aluminum foil over his head, around his arms, and over his torso, his shirt painted silver. And I went as the lion, dressed from head to foot in beige sacking, every toenail a different colour, a long tail from scrap fur, and a fuzzy long-haired wig, and my face lion masked.

But the piece de resistance that night was Ralph as The Straw Man. I stuffed straw we’d gathered in the country from his stomach to his arms, and coming out of his collar, all topped by a bashed-in straw boater. We won first prize. We were such a sight. We danced away the straw slipping out and tracking the floor all over the huge room.

The caretaker was aghast. He had to follow Ralph around sweeping up the straw and cursing under his breath.

The payoff was that the next day, Ralph came down with asthma from the dust from the straw, and it took days to recover.

It was so much work to get it all together, but to this day we remember how special Purim was for us then, and how it helped us recognize that our newfound commitment to Orthodox Judaism could be fun too.♦

Photo credits Suzanne Wintrob

*Tzitzit or Tzitzis (Hebrew: ציצית) are “fringes” worn by numerous Jews on the corners of four-cornered garments, including the Tallit (prayer shawl) and Tallit Katan. They are considered by Orthodox tradition to be a time-bound commandment… -halachipedia.com/

** Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism, is a Jewish religious group that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Western Ukraine during the 18th century, and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe.– Wikipedia

Kitty Wintrob is a regular contributor to Community Jewish News cjnonline.com | cjnonline.ca. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

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