It won't be too long until Purim is here, so it's time to get ready for the silliest and happiest day on the calendar. Unusually, Purim is on a Thursday night and Friday (which means that in Jerusalem and other walled ancient cities, it is on Shabbat). Our celebration will begin at 7:00 on Thursday, March 24.
Every year we try to designate a theme for Purim costumes, just to test the creativity of members of the congregation. Most of us remember fondly our all-Elvis Purim, our Cartoon Purim and our Disney Purim. Less popular was our Vaccination Purim and our Failed Third-Party Political Candidates Purim. The jury is still out on last year's Class Action Purim.
This year, after an agonizing deliberation, we have chosen as our theme Classic Movies Purim. (We leave it to you to distinguish between classic and non-classic movies.) As a general rule, most sequels are not classics, nor any movie with any cast member of Saved By the Bell or Baby, I'm Back.
Be creative. Was it Bogie who said, "Of all the megillah readings in all the synagogues in the world, she had to walk in here?" And didn't Haman yell, "Top of the world, Ma?" Or was it "I'm king of the world?" And I am pretty sure that Achashverosh's princes brought him out of his funk over Vashti by chanting, "To-ga, to-ga, to-ga." We'll have a parade of costumes that will give you a chance to explain who or what you are.
There is, of course, an important set of rituals to Purim, including the reading of the Book of Esther. Esther's willingness to put her life on the line for the sake of her people is one of the most inspirational stories of the Bible. Mordecai's clarion call to her conscience is an echo of Moses and a precursor of Mattathias. And God's hidden nature throughout the story resonates with us in a way the miracles of the Torah cannot.
However, for Purim's unique story and unusual informality, it has one thing in common with most Jewish holidays: we remember those less fortunate. In celebration of the happy ending, the Jews sent presents to their neighbors and gifts to the poor. Allow me to suggest a modem spin on those customs.
Mishlo'ach manot can be sent in your name to those serving in the Israel Defense Forces. You can do so through the American Zionist Movement at http://www.azm.org/purim2005.shtml. Both Gesher and Charles E. Smith day schools have opportunities to send goodies for Purim. And I encourage you to send non-perishable gifts to members of the U.S. armed services, especially those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. (For security reasons, you must send packages to specific individuals. Our congregation does not have anyone serving in those locales this Purim.)
Each year, Alexandrians InvolVed Ecumenically (A.L.I.V.E.) sponsors their "Fools ALIVE!" event to raise funds for those in need in our community. (This year it is on March 5 – call 703-837-9300 extension 6 for information.) The monies raised support the food bank, child care program, furniture distribution and other services that this faith-based non-profit provides locally. We are proud members of A.L.I.V.E. and, on Purim, proud to be fools for tzedakah. Make a contribution as part of your gifts to the poor: send it to 2723 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302.