Inspirational Life-Lessons of Purim

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Many people think Purim is merely an occasion to wear silly costumes and make lots of noise with groggers — but there is so much more.  For example, it’s also the only day on the Hebrew calendar when it’s an actual mitzvah to get drunk; or, as Michigan State students would call it: Tuesday. The ancient story of Purim reveals many deep insights and inspirational life-lessons that can change your life. Here are but a few:


LESSON NO. 1: PLEASE AND THANK YOU GO A LONG WAY

Many years ago, Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, threw a huge party for his kingdom. The festivities were lavish, featuring even more treif food, inappropriately dressed women and ostentatious displays of wealth than a West Bloomfield bat mitzvah.

At the party, the king demanded that his wife, Vashti, dance naked in front of the guests. Vashti refused. Ahasuerus, who was drunker than a kid on a Birthright trip, divorced the queen and banished her from the kingdom.

The king’s sexist, contemptible behavior teaches us a valuable lesson in how not to behave in marriage: Never demand that your spouse strip naked in front of your friends at a party. Instead, ask nicely.

That means saying, “Please,” “Pretty please” and even “Pretty please, with sugar on top”; and only then, if she still refuses to strip, is it OK to divorce and banish her. Be aware, though, that unless you’re a king, getting a banishment clause in your divorce settlement can be tricky.

LESSON NO. 2: LEARN TO PLAY MAH JONG

Finding himself lonely, Ahasuerus held a beauty contest by gathering the most beautiful women in the empire, spending time with each and then choosing one to become his new queen by handing her a rose on Persian national TV.

Esther, a young Jew that the Megillah describes as being “of beautiful form and fair to look upon” — or, in modern-day parlance, a “stone-cold hottie” — entered the beauty contest under the watch of her uncle, Mordechai.

After much preparation, Esther “went unto the king in the evening and returned in the morning,” and during that seminal night “found favor in the king’s eyes more than all the virgins.”

Esther, of course, went on to become queen and used her position to save the Jewish people from Haman’s murderous plot. But what exactly did Esther do to win the king over in his chamber?

The Megillah doesn’t give details, but if one reads between the lines, it’s pretty obvious: They engaged in a night of passionate, soulful, mind-blowing … mah jong.

That’s right, in a critical moment, Esther, like so many Jewish women before and after, turned to her exceptional mah jong skills. And what a contest it was! The game raged on all night, the lead constantly changing hands.

First, the king was on top, and then Esther was on top. By morning’s light, the thoroughly exhausted king knew that this exceptional mah jong player would be his future wife. So brush up on your mahj. The fate of the Jewish people may depend on it.

LESSON NO. 3:  STICK WITH THE PRUNE HAMANTASHEN

A good friend of mine loves hamantashen. One Purim, he sat down with an entire batch of freshly baked poppy-seed beauties. He bit into one and was apparently so overcome by a feeling of intense euphoria that he lost all self-control, ate the entire batch and passed out on the floor in a state of bliss.

Unfortunately, he didn’t come around until the next morning when he was woken by the knock of his parole officer at his front door — there to retrieve my friend’s court-ordered, monthly urine sample.

(Those who are familiar with such things know that poppy seed can trigger a false positive for opiates.)

When the results came back positive for opium, hashish and heroin, this friend tried to explain to the judge the hilarious story of how the hamantashen were obviously responsible. The judge didn’t buy a word of it but was rumored to be a habitual hamantashen eater himself — so my friend was able to buy him off with a baker’s dozen from Zeman’s.

Such close calls can be averted in the future, though, by following our final life-lesson of Purim:  Always keep a vial of clean urine handy while munching on poppy-seed hamantashen. You never know when you’ll need it.

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