One of our proudest partnerships from the last few years is our ongoing joint Sunday School, B3 (B’nai Emunah-Beth Israel-Judea B’Yachad). B3 classes include students from both congregations (as well as other families) to create an engaging and meaningful experience for all.
How historical is Purim? What’s the deal with all the drinking? Why was Haman wearing a hat like Paul Revere? Isn’t it morally problematic that so many Persians die?
Depending on how many times you’ve sat through a megillah reading or a Purim-spiel, some of these questions may have crossed your mind. A few weeks ago our 10th grade class discussed Purim and many similar questions came up. First we looked at the text and an introductory essay in the JPS Jewish Study Bible (which argues that the Book of Esther is properly understood as a comedic Jewish fairy-tale, which explains the hyper-exaggeration, such as building a stake 50 cubits high– which is more than 10 stories– or King Ahasuerus holding a 6-month party to celebrate a scant three years on the throne). Next we examined some rabbinic midrash from Louis Ginzburg’s fantastic Legends of the Jews to see just how more fantastical some of the rabbinic interpretations get (my favorite one is here which discusses the dangers of Persian drinking contests). Finally, for a modern take we paged through J.T. Waldman’s Megillat Esther— a great graphic novel version of the text with really impressive sources, to boot!
What’s a question you’ve always had about Purim?
P.S. Haman’s hat debunked.