Sunday, March 07, 2004

Purim Sameach

Yesterday was Purim, a holiday I have come to love. Certainly the most festive of Jewish holidays, it celebrates the saving of the Jewish people by Mordechai and Queen Esther, who approached her husband, King What's-his-name, on their behalf when Haman had convinced him to have the Jews destroyed. Instead, it was Haman who was put to death on the very gallows he had built for the Jews.

Hence, the happy, carnival nature of Purim. Purim is celebrated on the fourteenth of Adar all over Israel, and on the fifteenth of Adar in Jerusalem (due to the fact that residents of walled cities were to be killed a day after everyone else, I forget why) On the secular calender, this usually falls in the end of February, or the beginning of March.

The rules concerning Purim: Everyone must be happy. It is actually a commandment. It is also a commandment that people give gifts to friends, alms to the poor, and hear the Megillah, or the Esther scroll, read at synagogue. One is to eat a great feast, and many people dress up in masks or costumes, as Esther hid her Jewishness from Xerxes. It is also an actual rule that on Purim, one must drink until one can no longer tell if one is cursing Haman or blessing Mordechai.

So, the entire weekend was one long party, with people dressed in strange costumes on the street, making lots of noise, and gleefully obeying the drinking statute. Last night we all had a great feast, started early due to the fact that the feast must be during the day, and were all quite comfortably obeying the drinking rule by seven. We painted our faces with bright colors, got all dressed up, and made great plans to go to several different parties, none of which actually came to fruition as we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the fun in our own apartment. Eventually, however, the party moved on, and I headed home to my own place where there was currently another party in progress. The drive home was wonderfully surreal, with large groups of Hasidic and ultra-orthodox Jews weaving and stumbling their merry, drunk way through the streets, sidelocks swinging, dresses trailing through the dirt, hats off heads and into hands. Everyone was happy, even the soldiers and policeman stationed every few feet or so.

I feel so happy and full these days. I truly feel like I am home, like I have made a life for myself here. First semester was difficult--adjusting, dealing with homesickness, trying to make my home feel like home, but now I have finally gotten past all that, and have really...settled. I am aware of this happiness all the time, as I have this tendency to suddenly and without warning separate myself from everything going on around me and mentally assessing my situation. Stop, look around the room, and yes--I am happy. Then come back to brain and start to live again. All is well.

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