This Is Purim| February 28, 2023
I was deep inside the story of the Megillah, delighting in words I hadn’t focused on for so long
The streets were dark, unrecognizable.
The echo of our footsteps was a cliché, yet it sounded different from the times I had come home from a wedding late at night.
There was a wash of something portending light beyond the silent buildings, and we hurried.
Purim morning, and we were going to daven with a neitz minyan.
Me, I’m a night owl. My alarm clock is a brutal necessity as the mother of children who need to catch buses and the school bell. Convincing me to willingly get out of bed one minute earlier than necessary is not for the fainthearted — yet here I was, mind coming into focus as I clutched tissues and Megillah and looked at my watch again.
A friend of mine had asked me to come with her to listen to the Megillah leining in a formal setting. She had no one to lein for her at home, and listening to the Megillah in strangers’ kitchens/ dining rooms made her uncomfortable. She wanted to hear Megillah in shul.
If you looked, the ground was littered with debris left by revelers who were now slumbering. Some strands of tinsel, a clown’s ripped nose. Other than that, it could have been a regular morning, dawn about to break.
But there was something pure, something different, and I felt it. The sensation caught me unawares, stole into my mind. This feels like Yom Kippur.
Laughing inwardly at my pretentiousness, I slid into the seat in shul and started to daven.
There were few women out so early. Five, maybe seven. I sat in the back and focused, hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself by yawning.
The brachos rang out loud and clear — no rustling of nosh, no premature squeaks or whistles of some excited child practicing with his noise maker.
“Vayehi bimei Achashveirosh…”
I was deep inside the story of the Megillah, delighting in words I hadn’t focused on for so long. My mind was at the palace, midrashim and peirushim — not forgotten, but for so many years silent under other noise — crowding in to make the story more alive. Mordechai. Esther.
“Haman, Haman.” A polite little tapping of the shoe, and on we went, his rise to power, the threat of annihilation. My concentration did not break for an instant.
All too soon, the scraping back of chairs, and out into the crisp lightness of a fresh Purim day.
We spoke of nothing consequential as we walked home, my friend thanking me profusely as she turned up her path. Car doors slammed, men whipped talleisim over their shoulders, and I felt like my soul was talking to me so I slowed down near home to listen.
This is Purim, it whispered.
Yes, I whispered back.
I walked into a house of children in various stages of dress, my husband rushing out to catch his own minyan.
Makeup and crying and a kallah’s lost bouquet. Defrost the meat and the pastry for strudel. Check labels and ribbons, and who on earth put a bottle of wine in a bag that’s about to tear?
The hours of Purim slipped through my fingers like they did every year, the bookmark in my Tehillim making imperceptible progress as the door opened, closed, opened and stayed open.
Peel potatoes, no, that’s your last candy, okay you can eat it but don’t blame me if you throw up, how should I know why no one answered your Morah’s door, I’m so sorry, you can take it to her tomorrow.
And through it all, the healthy clamor that makes Purim my children’s Purim, I held my early morning’s experience close to me like a treasure.
Every year since, me, the night owl who will never ever be induced to get out of bed a minute before I must, sets the alarm to ring on Purim when the night hasn’t quite made its exit.
I walk the dark and silent streets and think of Purim, the Yom Hakippurim I will experience before all the things I have to do rise and cover the essence of the day.
For now it will be just me and the pure, distilled reason for it all. A day to commemorate how the Plan unfolded, piece by piece, in a mesmerizing telling that is the story of our nation. The day when we once again became His with love and in joy.
And in the stillness before the merriment that is yet to come, I sit and listen to the age-old words; let them burrow deep into my soul, where I will keep them and carry them all day.
This is Purim.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 833)
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