The holiday of Purim is one of the most festive on the Jewish calendar. It celebrates the victory of the Jewish people over their wicked foe Haman, a legendary precursor of Hitler. The holiday is celebrated with a Halloween-like dressing in costumes, traditionally costumes that depict the protagonists of the Purim story.
During my first year in law school at the University of Minnesota I studied property law as a student of Professor Marcia Gelpe. Professor Gelpe moved with her family to Israel in the 1980’s, and we share a mutual friend who teaches at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, whose faculty Professor Gelpe joined after several years at the University of Minnesota. Professor Gelpe has written our mutual friend a Purim message that is obviously timely and that may be of interest to others:
“Today is Purim in most of the world, but we celebrate tomorrow in Jerusalem. This is because of the special rule that Purim is a day later in cities walled at the time of the events of the megillah. Read the megillah; you’ll see. It is towards the end. It is called Shushan Purim.
“Already, people are out and about here in costumes. Last night I saw a Cleopatra, a balloon vendor, a witch (influences of Halloween?), a cat (but not a black one), and a couple dressed as a TV commercial for pots and pans. These were all adults. Kids are out as the usual array of princesses, clowns, etc. The big deal for kids this year is to dress as spacemen. The influence of Ilan Ramon remains. I am preparing our costumes. Dennis [her husband] and I (if he consents) will go to the Purim party at our folk-dancing group as two sealed rooms — wrapped in plastic wrap with the special tape that is sold here for the purpose.
“We expect Purim to end with the beginning of the war, but we are not letting that spoil our fun. Tomorrow Dennis and I are joining friends for the traditional Purim meal. We shall give coins to some needy folk and send mishloach manot to friends. Then we shall settle down with the expectation of being awoken by sirens.
“Joey [her son] said that an army general came to his base with a rabbi last night, and there was a reading of the megillah for all the soldiers. (His base is not in Jerusalem, so they read the megillah last night.) Today, they are on the exercises in the field somewhere. I don’t know where; I assume I am not allowed to know. But Joey called from the bus transporting them to wish me a happy Purim. Joey was very grateful for the huge mishloach manot package that arrived from our cousins in San Diego. (Actually, they had intended it to arrive earlier, but the Israeli army managed to deliver it yesterday, which was just right.)
“So, with a war around the corner, why be happy? Many reasons. We are commanded to be happy. Beyond that, we have reason to be. We beat our enemies in Shushan and there is every reason to believe that if they attack us again, we will beat them again. We don’t have to sit and wait for Iraq to attack us; our American friends are taking on the fight. We will not have to act alone again to take out another Iraqi nuclear reactor. We are here, in our own country, with an ability to defend ourselves. At least some part of the world is waking up to the evils of the Palestinians. Our kids are strong and healthy and fine people of whom we are proud. Our niece is about to give birth. Spring is coming. Much is right in our world.
“I know many of you are worried. I understand. We hope all we be OK where you live. Be strong and of good courage.”
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