Monday, March 10, 2014

Fleeing Purim

"I'm going to Miami for Purim," the lady said to her friend, a rolling suitcase in hand. "I just can't do it anymore." 

When one is little, one takes their childhood at face value. Add that concept to my high gullibility quotient, it was quite a shock when I first exposed to the Freak-Out-Over-Purim (FOOP).
FOOP symptoms usually involve copious amounts of screaming. The screaming is very important. "Where's the matching aqua tissue paper for the 'Under the Sea' basket? I can't use red!"

This is how we spent every Purim: 

Ma would make a few mishloach manos. For the grandparents and her aunts and uncles, containing a fruit, a baked good, maybe a small bottle of grape juice.

I never gave to classmates. When I was little I didn't know kids could exchange. One year I gave to a morah only because she was so needy.

Early in the day, after we heard Ta lein the megillah, we'd pile into the car and head out to visit family. Purim was the one day a year that was devoted to great-aunts and -uncles; my siblings and I would sit quietly, munching on a néni's stale sponge cake (it was probably in the freezer since Simchas Torah), while Ma caught up with them in flying Hungarian. Then the money would dribble in, all for a peck on a wrinkled cheek.

We would come home in the dark of night, our front doorstep covered in mishloach manos. No, we did not go frantically over in the morning to give back. Motzei Purim runs straight into Pesach cleaning, and no one ever mentioned how they were unreciprocated. Why would they want one? Something else to throw out?


1) Everyone is happy to give mishloach manos

2) No one wants to receive them. 

If you don't give to every single neighbor or friend, no one will hold it against you. No one will shun your children if they don't give to every single classmate—kids, one may recall, have pretty limited memory. Overdosing on sugar the previous day helps.

It is also so wasteful since everyone just exchanges junk that will get tossed before Pesach anyway, as Doni Joszef vividly describes. 

There is always option B: Don't answer the door after giving out your requirement, which is two edible items to one person. Or, option C: Usually little kids are sent to the door in their parents' stead; they'll be ecstatic with a dollar or two in compensation for their messenger services.

Purim is yontif, and can be fulfilled quite well without an original poem tying in the pirate theme. Purim is supposed to be enjoyed, and not everyone enjoys the current state of affairs.
Impressive, but not the necessary minimum.
Sure, there are a number amongst us who merrily compose hundreds of divine goody baskets and happily dress their offspring in perfectly matching costumes and pen a witty gramen all without a single raised voice. Ladies, I salute you. But you are, it must be acknowledged, a rare breed.

Children would rather have calm and collected parents on a holiday as opposed to FOOPed and frazzled ones. If we make yontif into a chore as opposed to a happy day, what will the next generation be taught? That even our celebrations are tedious?  

If you are dreading Purim, put your foot down. Do that which you can handle. It's okay. No one cares. If they do, then question their sanity, not your own. 

It's also much cheaper than flying to Miami.


Daniel Saunders said...

I understood two brachot is urban legend; two foodstuffs is enough.

I've noticed more people do the minimum and send other friends a card saying a donation has been made in their name to an appropriate charity.

Nechama said...

Just in time! Husband wants to visit all the relatives with Shaloch Manos and I'm thinking he's got the right idea...

Princess Lea said...

DS: My BY education hopefully wasn't riddled with too many errors. Correction made, thank you!

Nechama: I highly recommend it; the day is so fun instead of being held hostage in one's home.

On a sad note, there aren't that many of my great-aunts and -uncles left. Now I've got to move on to my own aunts and uncles, I guess!

Kate said...

"Children would rather have calm and collected parents on a holiday as opposed to FOOPed and frazzled ones."

Amen, sister. I grew up witnessing the craziness of Xmas, and I have vowed not to make Jewish holidays that way for my children.

Sheva said...

I so agree with you. As a single girl (especially with no family living nearby), Purim has long been one of my least favorite chagim, unfortunately. It seems that while it is positive, exhilarating and even spiritual for the men... not so much simcha for the women. Any thoughts?

Princess Lea said...

Kate: My mother is now going around trying to talk everyone off from the ledge. People now say, "It's so hard to make Purim," the way it used to be "make Pesach." Say WHAT?

Sheva: That's a shame, because it is a women's holiday: Go Esther!

For the men, they just seem to go to town on the whole drinking thing. I think that men and women, as a whole, must quest to spiritually reconnect to yomim tovim, in general. It won't happen on it's own.

I find that epiphanies cannot happen in a vacuum. I try to take advantage of the wealth of shiurim available online, like torahanytime. While not all speakers will nail it—I am very particular about shiur content—even just one point that speaks to you can make all the difference.

Last motzei Shabbos Rabbi Yisroel Reisman worked in some lovely Purim thoughts about the generosity of the day, how generosity goes beyond time, effort, and money. There is a generosity of mind as well.

For other mind-blowing thoughts, there is Rabbi David Fohrman's "The Queen You Thought You Knew," which sheds a whole new light on the megillah story.

Then there is living in the moment, being present in the holiday, focusing on the message: Purim is the one holiday we have that shows that Hashem is with us, even in galus, just His face is hidden. We don't need great miracles to know He is with us. If we look, and we are aware, we can see His presence in the everyday.

Daniel Saunders said...

Agreed about men also needing to work on spirituality on You Tov. As an introverted teetotaller who has suffered from depression for many years, Purim in particular is a challenge. This year I will be with small children for the first time in many years; I am not sure if this will be better or worse. Hopefully better!

Princess Lea said...

No need to up your blood alcohol level, though. I come from a family of teetotalers—that is one tradition we frantically avoid.

Kids should do the trick.

Nechama said...

Thanks. So glad I read this piece early enough. Completely transformed my Purim to do the great-aunt thing and I hope this will set a positive tradition for my family. Thank you!

Princess Lea said...

I'm so happy that it worked for you!