Robert Sherman, Chief Executive Officer

Your Purim Costume Is a Dress Rehearsal

Superhero costume

Purim is a rehearsal for Pesach. We all have our private Egypts from which we are desperate to escape.

It is hard and risky work to squeeze through the narrow straits between where you are and where you want to be. You need a boatload of will and faith to plunge into a seething sea when the massive forces seeking to re-enslave you are hot on your heels. We need to probe every nook and cranny to excise chametz from our midst, and we need to completely change our eating habits, and spend a night reenacting the departure and exploring its multiple meanings. We need to keep at it for a full week.

Purim is just as deadly but far less complicated. It doesn’t begin at a point where we have been so beaten down we have lost the ability to even cry out for help. It puts us instead in the context of an absurd world rather than a brutal and relentlessly oppressive one. The king in the Purim story is a not terribly bright drunken reveler and his evil vizier is represented in a cartoonish way to be vain, unhinged with hatred, and delusional. The good guy mostly stands outside the action (unlike Moses who is in the thick of it) and the savior is a woman who seems somewhat vain and materialistic to begin with and who transforms through a kind of moral shock therapy into a clever manipulator of palace intrigue.

If Pesach is epic in scope and meaning, drawn more like a comic book, a comedic version of reality.

If Pesach is epic in scope and meaning, Purim, though dealing with some of the same themes, is drawn more like a comic book, a comedic version of reality. Divine intervention is absent from the story (in any obvious way) and everyone tends to behave true to character and with little subtlety.

On Purim we focus on the narrative, we get tipsy, whoop it up, and hoot and holler at the bad guy. Purim keeps mostly to the surface level of the story, while Pesach is all about questions and the “telling” that takes place on Pesach is not so much telling the straight forward story of escape from slavery into freedom, as it is digging deep into what it takes, individually and collectively, for us to get there. 
Purim gets us ready for the long haul. It’s a teaser. We don’t have to slog our way out in the Purim story, since Mordechai and Esther take care of it all for us. It does, however, remind us that regardless of how absurd and dangerous the world we live in may be, we can’t just wait around for change or assume that just because we are OK individually, we have no responsibility for everyone else who is at risk.

So, let yourself loose a little bit and warm up for the big one coming in just a month.

Happy Purim!


Robert Sherman is a former CEO of the Jewish Education Project.

Related Resources

No related resources found.

Related networks

No related networks found.