Ain’t No Party Like a …
Biking through Brooklyn. 10:30 pm on a Monday. You pass big hats—big ones. Music pumping from even more enormous vehicles. Hummers? No. Escalades? No again. Rented white RVs scattered through the streets, packed full of Hasidic boys dressed in sparkles? Oh, yes.
Did I mention the children dressed up in costumes? And that the music was in Yiddish? It is, after all, South Williamsburg.
My half-secular-Jewish upbringing was almost wholly innocent of what is clearly the biggest, baddest party on this side of the East River. All my pious Jewish friends in college got a special sparkle in their eyes that night as they went off to do something celebratory. Let’s use this as a chance to learn something—Wikipedia sez:
Purim (Hebrew: פורים (help·info) Pûrîm “lots“, related to Akkadian pūru) is a festival that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman‘s plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (Megillat Esther). According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews.
Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (Adar II in leap years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies; as with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, including Shushan (Susa) and Jerusalem, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, known as Shushan Purim. Purim is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther (keriat ha-megilla), giving mutual gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim), and a celebratory meal (se’udat Purim); other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.
See, learning is almost as fun as cramming into an RV until your ears bleed from the klezmer.
Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.