Purim is just around the corner – Monday night and Tuesday, March 17 and 18, to be precise. And at times like these, I always think back to when I was a little boy growing up in Hawaii.
My family lived next door to a spaghetti farm. As you know, spaghetti grows straight up, and if planted in rows, it is a simple matter to walk along with a scissors and snip off the amount and length you need. (Wild spaghetti often grows in haphazard clumps.) Our traditional Purim meal was spaghetti in coconut sauce. In fact, almost every night we had spaghetti in coconut sauce.
It is traditional for a young man to take the name of his father, and to add to it. You can tell how long a family has been on the islands by the length of the eldest son’s name. My grandfather first came to Hawaii and took the local name “Homina.” My father became “Homina Homina.” In my early years, I was known as “Homina Homina Homina.” My mother was known as C’monamona My-house, and was famous throughout the islands for her spaghetti in coconut sauce.
My love of baseball actually came from my earliest years in Hawaii. We played a game in which the batter stood with a piece of sugar cane under a tree while the “pitcher” shook the tree until a coconut fell. The batter would have to hit the falling coconut and then run the bases. Eventually, it occurred to us that it was easier to reuse the coconuts by throwing the ones that had fallen. There were also many fewer concussions. Occasionally, the impact of the cane would crack open the coconut. My mother would use our damaged equipment to make her famous spaghetti in coconut sauce.
Jewish life in Hawaii was also unique. Since the onset of every evening moves west from Jerusalem, the holidays were often exhausted by the time they reached us. The Shabbes bride frequently fell asleep on the way from San Francisco. And by the time Elijah showed up at our seder, he was slurring his words and calling everybody “ol’ buddy ol’ pal.” But Purim was different. There was no end to the hilarity of Purim. Rumor had it that Mordecai and his family actually settled in Hawaii when he retired from being Prime Minister of Persia, and took the island name, “Nyuk.” To this day, you can meet people named “Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk” who are actually Persian-Hawaiian Jews.
In honor of my boyhood, our theme this year is A Hawaiian Purim. Services and megillah reading begin on Monday evening, March 17 at 7:00 and the next morning also at 7:00. Dress for the occasion or bring your contribution to the Rabbi’s Scotch Collection. Be there. Aloha.