I don’t think I can stomach the forced happiness of Purim this year, the groggers over Zoom, the pandemic-themed spiels. Can I opt out?
Purim Party Pooper
Last year at this time (on the Hebrew calendar), some communities where there were already COVID cases were canceling Purim celebrations, while others were moving forward with what we thought were COVID-safe practices of not shaking hands or sharing food. We didn’t know anything.
Images of last year’s Purim are seared in my mind as the last normal thing we did before everything changed, and the last time I attended religious services inside my synagogue. It’s painful, honestly, and hard to shake just how final those moments were.
Since then, we’ve reimagined nearly everything — about Jewish life, about home life, about how to socialize and celebrate and learn and mourn. We’ve each made thousands of decisions about what feels safe, what to do virtually and when to opt out.
Purim is no different, and if you can’t stomach it, you can’t. No one can make you log into a Megillah reading or make hamantaschen and, most especially, no one can make you feel happy.
So you can go through the motions, and give mishloach manot (gifts of food) to friends and give matanot l’eyvonim (gifts of money) to people in need. You can have a seudah (festive meal) or not, you can read the book of Esther to yourself or listen to it online or none of the above. You can put a funny filter on Zoom instead of a costume, or you can bide your time until the day is over.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t care if you celebrate Purim. The holidays are here for you to find meaning from them, to help you track the rhythms of the year. To be in community with people doing the same things. All of those aspects are harder this year, maybe even impossible.
And if that means that Purim feels impossible too, then sit it out. But if there’s a chance that a gift of food or money could make someone else’s day brighter, that seeing some virtual forced levity might bring even a small smile to your face for a moment, maybe it’s worth an hour of your time.
Be well, and happy Purim, or whatever,