A Poem For Purim in Which Our Happiness Gets Bigger by Rick Lupert


It is the Hebrew month of Adar and my
happiness is getting bigger.

That’s not meant to sound dirty.
It’s a traditional tradition, as old as Purim itself

as old as eating cookies shaped like human ears
as old as wearing Venetian masks

I think Purim is where Mardi Gras got the idea.
As Purim approaches, our happiness gets bigger.

On this day we march down the Bourbon Streets
of our lives, imbibing whatever it takes

to blur the lines between what’s wrong and what’s right.
(or what’s left if you’re feeling politically charged)

Hoping, no mandated, to see how close we are
to evil, and still land on the good side of the line.

I have to be honest, when I first heard the word
Megillah, I was disappointed to find out it didn’t

have anything to do with Gorillas. The cartoon of
my youth informing my understanding of Jewish History.

I’d always wanted a monkey of any kind and to
find out Purim only led to a cookie, was a tragedy

of King Kongian proportions. It was like someone
was saying Haman to me as loud as they could

next to my ear which I’m lucky enough to
still have attached. And can we all just agree,

There should be a much higher proportion of
chocolate Hamentaschen? (no offense fruit)

This is all getting a bit silly, but that’s Purim.
Straddling the line between good and evil.

A dizzying balance to maintain. I’m standing
on one foot. Hoping the other one lands

in a respectable location. My happiness is
getting bigger. I’d draw you a picture, but

I’m out of time.


Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert created a the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 20 collections of poetry, including “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Donut Famine” (Rothco Press, December 2016) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

How to Jew Purim


Saturday, March 11, to Sunday, March 12

BACKGROUND

Purim, celebrated every year on the 14th of Adar, commemorates how Jews living in the fourth century Persian Empire pre-empted a plot by the evil prime minister, Haman, to have them all killed. Haman — angered by the refusal of a Jew named Mordecai to bow down to him — persuaded the Persian ruler, King Ahasuerus, to issue a decree calling for the extermination of the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date Haman had chosen in a lottery. (“Purim” is Persian for “lots.”)

Mordecai heard of the plot and appealed to his cousin, Esther, who the king had selected as his wife in a beauty contest, not knowing she was Jewish. Esther held a feast at which she revealed to Ahasuerus that she was a Jew and persuaded him to reverse the decree. The king then had Haman and his 10 sons hanged from the gallows, and named Mordecai prime minister. A new decree was then issued allowing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. When the 13th of Adar arrived, the Jews struck back against those enemies. They celebrated their accomplishment on the 14th of Adar.

TRADITIONS

The day before Purim is a day of fasting to commemorate the Fast of Esther — her three days of fasting before the feast. This year, because Purim is on Shabbat, the fast is observed on March 9 from dawn till dusk.

Traditionally, the Megillah (the Book of Esther) is read twice — on the night of Purim and on Purim day. During the often boisterous reading, the congregation makes noise with groggers and yells “Boo!” at every mention of Haman’s name. Purim also is a special time to dress up in costumes. Many synagogues and community centers have carnivals, parties and humorous skits or shows called Purim spiels.

Other aspects of the holiday involve giving gifts or providing acts of charity. One such tradition is to give a basket of treats, or mishloach manot, to neighbors, friends or members of the community. It’s also a custom to donate money to at least two needy people as part of a tradition called matanot l’evyonim.

SPECIAL FOODS

Jews enjoy the holiday with hamantashen — triangular pastries typically filled with fruit preserves — that, according to one legend, are symbols of Haman’s three-sided hat. Some celebrations include a special Purim challah, which is bigger than the usual bread and made with more braids to symbolize the rope with which Haman was hanged. Another holiday food is kreplach, dumplings filled with meat.

— Kylie Ora Lobell, Contributing Writer

Sources: Chabad.org, MyJewishLearning

Purim story: No Yeshiva Deferments


The funhouse sideshow of Charedi life in Israel and in the New York area bursts forth every Purim, as the ultra-Orthodox transform themselves into fez-wearing Turks, medieval noblemen and so on.

We enjoy the easing of cultural barriers in the humor and evincing of a shared humanity. But this year’s twin pre-Purim Sunday anti-draft demonstrations, one blocking Jerusalem’s main entry point and the other on Wall Street, illustrated that the divide within the Jewish people is in earnest. The Purim parody is an all-Charedi affair — a group that refuses to confront the central teachings of the Purim megillah itself.

In truth, the Charedi rallies have taken up the power of prayer, whose efficacy the megillah offers to an endangered population. At Esther’s command, Jews fast and wail to fight the evil decree against them. They use their spiritual powers as their first response, one that is necessary, albeit not sufficient.

However, the public prayers of the last few weeks are themselves problematic in their self-serving focus: This is the opposite of true prayer, which at some point is also for the other. The evidence is clear from the total Charedi rejection of prayer for Israel’s soldiers, or for the police ensuring their safety, that we simply are not within their prayer circle of concern. They care less than we think.

Beyond prayer, the Purim story instructs us that, to make salvation possible, Jews must defend themselves. It has no exemptions. There are no yeshiva deferments. There are no deferments for women, for anyone. God’s very name, the God who hovers over every word in this scroll, is not present so that no one can think “The Name [HaShem, or God] will take care of things.” Or that some secular or less religious group will bear the entire burden. No beit din (religious court) forms to forbid the fight; no prayer demonstrations condemn the “real culprits” to be those assimilationists, the intermarried Esther and the goy-posturing Mordecai.

None of those easy ways out are countenanced. The Jews need to engage the enemy everywhere in those 127 satraps, even boarding ships in the middle of the night to find ancient missiles meant to annihilate us. But all Jews in this biblical story were evidently thrilled to bear the burden.

The special mirrors in the Charedi funhouse can render their own prayerful contributions as exceptionally large and that of the Israel Defense Forces as tiny. It must be entertaining for a moment to entertain such unusual and exalted visions. But when you teach that as reality, you doom a complete section of society to delusional thinking, which guarantees apathy, anger and the social ills that ignorance and poverty bestow.

The Purim megillah further teaches us a practical teleology of all things Jewish at the end of the story. We send gifts of food in order to increase social solidarity, an unknown value in Charedi society regarding anyone else. Could you imagine the impact of a Charedi women’s auxiliary sending Shabbat cakes or kugels (one of those gigantic wheels) up to soldiers on the borders, or doing something or anything for someone else? In these two anti-draft demonstrations, the only baked goods were a Purim pie in the face to anyone not wearing the official black and white.

The megillah tells us to share matanot l’aniyim (monetary gifts for the poor), not to sign up and join the class of alms recipients. That position has been the rejected one in Jewish tradition.

Today, the greatest givers of tzedakah are the population who work, pay taxes and try to keep an increasingly impossible welfare burden of Charedim on their shaky feet, just so they can point to their own self-serving “free loan societies” as something other than the confession of a pathetic self-imposed poverty. Poverty with a lack of generosity toward even fellow Jews and the capacity to follow through on any meaningful parnasah, or income from work — how can they ever be within the category of ba’alei chesed v’tzedek (doers of loving-kindness and justice) to our wider (including non-Jewish) population, a condition of positive, life-enhancing kiddush HaShem? The energy expended now is in squelching reports of their own who are recognizing what really took place — a battle between rival rabbinic factions.

Finally, we are bidden to record and to read this Purim story. Every Jewish high-school child in a non-Charedi household in Israel receiving his or her tzav giyus (draft notice), knows that they must take up the burden and defend Jews,  must create a society that has concern and active care for others. Even the most immature, callow youth has a sense of this. But the “giants” of Torah teach the opposite. And they call what they teach Torah learning. Its proper name is Purim Torah.

This article is reprinted with permission from Haaretz.


Rabbi Daniel Landes is director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. He was a founding faculty member of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and of Yeshiva University of Los Angeles and of Jewish Law at Loyola Law School, and served in the renewal of B’nai David-Judea Congregation of Los Angeles. 

Purim: There’s something about Esther


If I were assigned the task of writing a biblical-style script for a play or a movie, the Book of Esther is the last place I would turn for inspiration. The word “biblical” conjures up images of God, prophets, dreams, visions and supernatural miracles — all of which are strikingly absent from the Book of Esther. Not once does God’s name appear in this book, and none of the main characters are prophets or religious leaders. As for the outcome that came to be known as the “Miracle of Purim,” it is told in absolutely human terms, with no divine manifestation or supernatural miracles determining the outcome.

Contrast this with the Torah, the ultimate source of inspiration for a biblical-style story. All the classic biblical ingredients are present in the Torah. God is ever-present, regularly communicating with prophets in dreams, burning bushes and pillars of fire. When it comes to supernatural miracles, no book does it better than the Torah. God’s creation of the world, splitting of the sea and speaking the Ten Commandments directly to the Israelites at Mount Sinai are among the most outstanding divine manifestations in all of human history.

Yet, for the polar opposites that they are, the Torah and the Book of Esther share something very deep. They are the only two books in the Bible that, according to halachah, must be written on a parchment scroll by a scribe and must be read from such scrolls during public readings in the synagogue. By contrast, the prophetic selections read in synagogue as haftarot may be read from a printed book. Despite the absence of God’s name or of supernatural miracles, the Book of Esther became the “Torah Scroll of Purim.”

The Torah and the Book of Esther meet up in the Talmud. Tractate Megillah teaches us the laws of how to properly write Megillat Esther (megillah means scroll), as well as the appropriate times for its public reading on Purim. During the discussions about the Scroll of Esther, Tractate Megillah branches out to discuss the laws pertaining to the public reading of the other scroll in Judaism — the Torah. In a fascinating transition from the scroll without God’s name to the scroll in which God is everywhere, Tractate Megillah creates a unique halachic bond between the Scroll of Esther and a Torah scroll. 

The drama of the unique relationship between these opposites intensifies.

In his final halachic entry on the Laws of Purim, Maimonides teaches:

In the Messianic era, all of the biblical books of the Prophets and Writings will be nullified, with the exception of the Book of Esther. It will continue to exist, as will the Torah and the Oral Law, which will never be nullified (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Megillah, 2:18).

What does this seemingly peculiar relationship between the Torah and Megillat Esther imply? What is it about Megillat Esther that sparked the masters of Jewish tradition to have it written and read like a Torah scroll, and then to declare that it shares a unique destiny with the Torah as one of Judaism’s two eternally everlasting books? 

Jewish tradition places Megillat Esther on a pedestal, on par with the Torah, to teach us that experiencing God’s miracles does not lie exclusively in the realm of the supernatural. The so-called “classic biblical ingredients” — prophecies, miracles and even the constant mention of God’s name — are not the only ways to experience God. The rabbis sanctified Megillat Esther as a hidden manifestation of the divine, inspiring us to have faith that God is ever present in the world, even when that doesn’t seem so obvious. 

By seeing Megillat Esther as the “Torah Scroll of Purim,” the rabbis actually raise the bar in deepening our understanding of God and miracles. It’s easy to believe in God when you witness supernatural miracles or hear God’s voice speaking to you from heaven. But when Esther somehow becomes the chosen queen, and the very enemy that sought to destroy the Jews ends up destroyed — all without the sea splitting — can we rise above our secular “all’s well that ends well” reading of Esther and read this story as a miracle? 

Ever since the close of the prophetic period (roughly 2,700 years ago), the only God we have known is the one “presented” in Megillat Esther. God no longer speaks to us from mountaintops, and we do not have prophets with whom God interacts. From the story of Mordecai and Esther all the way to our current experiences as a Jewish nation, the hidden God of Megillat Esther — for better or for worse — is the only expression of God that we have known. 

The Torah and Megillat Esther indeed share much in common. The parchment, the calligraphy and the eternity of their distinct spiritual messages bond these texts forever. But more than the Torah, it is Megillat Esther — today and all the way through the Messianic Age — that truly challenges us to find God, both in our personal lives and in our national existence as Jews.


Rabbi Daniel Bouskila is the director of the Sephardic Educational Center (SEC), an international educational and cultural organization with its own campus in the Old City of Jerusalem. He is developing the SEC into the first Sephardic think tank for the Jewish world. Follow his blogs at rabbidanielbouskila.blogspot.com or at jewishjournal.com.

Women of the Wall Megillah reading undisturbed by Israeli police


A women’s Megillah reading at the Western Wall took place on Shushan Purim without incident or arrests.

Approximately 80 women turned out, some donning prayer shawls, others dressed as police and haredi Orthodox worshipers, on Monday morning in Jerusalem, the TImes of Israel reported.

Hallel Silverman, the 17-year-old niece of American comedian Sarah Silverman, who was arrested two weeks ago during rosh chodesh morning services for the Hebrew month of Adar, participated in the Megillah reading dressed in striped prison garb with two of her younger siblings dressed as police officers leading her by handcuffs.

Israeli police have made nearly monthly arrests related to dress code violations since June related to the Women of the Wall's monthly rosh chodesh service.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit, prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Wall.

Earlier in February, 10 women were arrested for praying with prayer shawls at the Wall as they celebrated the new Jewish month of Adar. Haaretz reported that the arrests took place after the services had concluded, which police had been observing.

Meanwhile, the Israeli nonprofit Learn & Live, established in 2009 to help at-risk youth, ran a Purim patrol on Sunday night assisting young women who were in distress because of drunkenness and brought them to one of two safe places in Jerusalem.

A Purim directive: Laugh it up!


Little kids will laugh at anything. The simplest knock-knock joke or a tickle fest — even the threat of one — can so easily end in hysterics. They laugh because they are surprised by something unexpected in a world they are constantly discovering.

If only that kind of laughter came as easily as we got older.

While the laughter of childhood is characterized by the element of surprise, the laughter in adulthood becomes a way of managing stress (filmmakers know this well and skillfully employ any element of comic relief during an action thriller to release some of the tension). Laughter becomes a coping mechanism to get us through difficult times. Paradoxically, many of us are so loaded down with responsibility and worry that we don’t indulge often enough in this emotional and physical release.

It’s a good thing Purim is nearly here.

Purim is a holiday that isn't ripe with laws and ritual obligations save for reading the Megillah, giving mishloach manot (gift packages) to friends, matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the poor) and having a festive meal. However, there is one directive for observance that is very clear: “they (The Jews) should make [Adar 14 and 15] days of feasting and joy …” (Scroll of Esther 9:22).

We each might experience this commandment on a different level. For 5-year-olds, putting on funny costumes, enjoying bobbing for candied apples at the synagogue carnival and seeing the rabbi dressed as a superhero evokes one kind of joy. For most grown-ups, joy and laughter may be an expression of a different kind. While we appreciate the dark comedy of the Megillah, our laughter also is a collective sigh of relief in having averted near annihilation unscathed.

The storyline of Purim, which this year falls on the evening of Feb. 23, is a dramatic comedy of errors and grand gestures with over-the-top reactions. It is so different in content and style than nearly every other book of the Bible that scholars speculate about the veracity of the story altogether. Drunken parties, political posturing and sexual innuendos weave their way throughout the narrative.

The Megillah begins with a raucous party hosted by King Achashveros, who demands that his wife, Vashti, appears (only! as commentators point out) in her crown. After refusing to appear naked, she is told to never appear before the king again. After his “wise” counselors offer advice, an edict is sent out across the provinces demanding that all wives respect their husbands’ every demand. Not sure what all the wives had to say about that!

It is a story about reversals. The Megillah has Mordechai, the Jewish hero who refuses to bow down to Haman. The act of disobedience ignites the ire of Haman, the recently promoted chief adviser to the king. Haman, in turn, calls for the destruction of all Jewish people.

Esther, who until this point has hidden her identity, then reveals that she also is a member of the doomed people and calls on Achashveros to punish Haman. Achashveros does by bestowing all the raiments and honors that were reserved for Haman to Mordechai. Further, the very gallows that Haman had ordered to be built for the hanging of Mordechai are the ones on which Haman meets his end.

Purim is a story of incongruencies. A people once despised and on the verge of destruction are told that they can defend themselves thanks to Esther’s petitions to the king and suddenly become a force with which to be reckoned. For pragmatic reasons, the text indicates that “many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.”  Averted disaster becomes an unusual catalyst for conversion.

While grand gestures, plot reversals and a storyline that doesn’t mesh quite right are elements that are employed by comedy writers and will evoke laughter, our general state of reverie on Purim is born from what the philosopher John Morreall observes about the evolution of laughter. Morreall believes that human laughter became a gesture of shared relief that a dangerous situation had passed. Laughter puts us into a state of relaxation and can build bonds between us.

As the cultural anthropologist Mahadev Apte observes further, “Laughter occurs when people are comfortable with one another, when they feel open and free. And the more laughter [there is], the more bonding [occurs] within the group.”

Jews have always used humor as a coping mechanism for Jewish survival and as a common reference point to connect to other Jews. Jewish comedians knew this well. As a people who have been oppressed for so long, we have always appreciated laughing at our situation before others could.

So this Purim, hold the childlike laughter of discovering new things (maybe someone you didn’t expect will give you mishloach manot; maybe you will surprise yourself at your generosity when you give a gift to the poor) and appreciate the narrative of the Purim story itself. But most important, experience the joy that comes from release, knowing that the Jewish people not only survives but continues to thrive.

As you raise your glass at Purim, toast “l’chaim” — to life — and to a life filled with deep laughter.

My personal Purim miracle


It was Purim, 1985. The surroundings seemed so strange to me. From childhood, Purim always meant Megillah reading, noise from noisemakers, loud music, lively dancing, people dressed up in different costumes, lots of good food, exchange of Mishloach Manot gift baskets, and a little “l’chaim” to top things off. That was exactly the Purim I had in 1984, 1983, 1982…all the way back to 1964, the year I was born.

This year, it just wasn’t the same. There was no Megillah available to be read. There were some occasional loud noises, but they did not come from kids cranking noisemakers. There was no music to dance to, and nobody was really in the mood to dance. Not only were people not dressed up in costumes, but everyone was actually dressed exactly the same. The food was the same type of bland food we had eaten the day before, and the only exchanges were wishes of “Purim Sameach (Happy Purim),” with the sad and sarcastic response being “Yes, this is really Sameach (Happy), isn’t it?” If we said l’chaim – to life—it wasn’t over a drink; it was a sincere hope that we will come out of this alive.

Purim 1985. Southern Lebanon. A lonely platoon of IDF soldiers, stuck in a small fortress. Not a very friendly place to be. The noise of gunfire, not the rhythm you would want to dance to. Young boys dressed up in khaki uniforms. Neighbors who were not interested in receiving Mishloach Manot. Strange, surreal. “During the month of Adar, we increase in joy” says the Talmud. Not here. Not in this place. No joy, nothing to celebrate. Just long shifts of guard duty, and patrols that really warranted the wishes of “l’chaim.”

That night of Purim is one big blur to me. Same with the morning – a total blank. All I could remember is the same exact things I could remember from any other day in Lebanon. But I will never, ever, ever forget the afternoon.

I was standing on guard duty with Moti, my sergeant who I had become very close to ever since basic training was over. We always did guard duty together, often talking about life, big dreams, and great hopes for the future. We would take turns looking through the binoculars, as there was this one long road we had to watch over. All sorts of traffic passed through this road. Lebanese delivery trucks, civilians driving from one town to the next, IDF convoys, ambulances. Due to the rise in suicide car bombs in Southern Lebanon, the IDF declared a rule that any vehicle that had only a driver and no passengers would immediately be suspected as a suicide bomber, and the IDF would open fire towards it. We had the dubious honor of watching over this road.

Moti was staring through the high – powered binoculars, and he told me that an IDF convoy was on its way. “I see some IDF vehicles approaching us,” he said, “and there is some other non-IDF van with them, but I can’t recognize what it is from here. Take a look.” I looked through the binoculars, and the convoy of jeeps and armored personnel carriers, still quite a distance away, was indeed accompanying a white van, but I could not make out the writing on the van. I looked and looked and looked, until the writing on the van suddenly became clear to me.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe my eyes,” I said in English. “What, what is it?” asked Moti. My eyes stared in amazement through the binoculars at the writing on the van: Chabad. That’s right, this IDF convoy was accompanying a Chabad van.

The convoy pulled up to our fortress, and my friends guarding the gate opened it up. In drove IDF jeeps, armored personnel carriers, and a van carrying Chabad rabbis and students. Like a mirage in the desert, the van stopped, and out came four Chabadniks. One of them held a Megillat Esther. Another had an accordion slung over his shoulders. Another had a bag filled with small megillot, Purim cards from kids, and blessing notes from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Last but certainly not least, one of them brought out several bags of hamentashen, various other sweets, and, of course, a bottle and shot glasses for a true “l’chaim.”

Just like that, out of nowhere, in the middle of a war zone, this little IDF fortress suddenly came alive with the spirit of Purim. Now it was really surreal. From the bleak picture I described above, I could suddenly see somebody reading the Megillah from a parchment scroll, with people following in small paperback megillot (I have mine to this day). I now heard joyous accordion music, and I could see people dancing with big smiles in small circles. People were eating hamentashen, and l’chaim was not about a patrol, but instead was a good shot of vodka. We were all taking turns guarding the various posts, as everybody wanted to share in this sudden outburst of Purim joy. Purim was here, alive and well, in an IDF fortress in Southern Lebanon! Here we were – religious soldiers, secular soldiers, simple soldiers, officers, mechanics and cooks – together with these four Chabad angels, who brought us the purest sense of joy and the most sincere expressions of solidarity, support and unity I have ever experienced.

There is not one single mention of God’s name in Megillat Esther. Rabbinic tradition interprets this as the Purim story being an example of the “hidden hand of God,” where miracles happen behind the scenes.

I wasn’t in Shushan 2,500 years ago, so I can only rely on what the Megillah tells us. But there is one thing I am sure of: on Purim Day, 1985, for my friends and I in an IDF fortress in Southern Lebanon, there were no “hidden miracles.” God’s name was in the air, and the miracle of Purim was out in the open – in the most unlikely of places—for all to see and hear.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach.

The whole megillah: Ten reasons to love Purim


So what is Purim about? This short guide explains the various holiday traditions and celebrations, as well as a few suggestions of unique and fun ways to partake in the festivities.

1. Megillah Reading

One of four mitzvot, or commandments, on Purim is listening to the reading of Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, at night and in the morning. In the tale, Esther, the new Persian queen, saves the Jews from destruction by the evil Haman. When reading the name of Haman and his family — symbols of all the Jews’ enemies — it’s customary to drown it out by making noise, often using groggers, or noisemakers. It is also customary to repeat the happy ending of the story: La’Yehudim hayta ora v’simcha (And the Jews had joy and light).

In conjunction with the community-building initiative Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim hosts its annual multilingual megillah reading, featuring Afrikaans, Klingon and Luganda, among others on March 3. In addition, Ugandan Rabbi Gershom Sizomu and his family will attend as special guests. A noisemaker and mask-making workshop, a pizza dinner (reservations needed) and Havdalah precede the 7:45 p.m. Megillah reading, followed by skits and Israeli dancing.

Beth Chayim Chadashim, 6000 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023, www.bcc-la.org.

Making the joy of Purim accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, Temple Beth Am is introducing a special PowerPoint presentation of Megillat Esther at their 8:15 p.m. sanctuary service on March 3. At the service, geared for children in the lower elementary grades to adults, sixth- and seventh-graders from Pressman Academy will read the megillah, which will be projected in Hebrew and English, along with graphics, onto a large screen. The program was developed by the Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities and is also suitable for the elderly and individuals with learning disabilities.

Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd. (310) 652-7353, www.tbala.org.

For more information about the Orthodox Union program, call Batya Jacob at (212) 613-8127 or visit www.ou.org.

2. Costumes

After the Jews were saved in the eleventh hour from Haman’s evil decree (implemented by King Ahasuerus), the megillah says their world was turned from sorrow to joy: “As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day.” And so Purim is topsy-turvy day, where people — kids especially — dress up in costume. Many wear costumes of characters in the Book of Esther, but others have made it into a generic “Jewish Halloween.”

Adele’s of Hollywood offers a 10 percent discount on all Purim costumes. Choose from hundreds of children’s outfits from newborn to size 14, from $25 to $65. Adult costumes are also available, for sale or rent, from $65 to $150. Open Purim day by appointment.

Adele’s of Hollywood, 5034 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 663-2231. www.adelescostumes.com.

Ursula’s Costumes has 2,000 costumes for purchase or rent. Adult costumes, mostly one of a kind, rent for $50 to $300 (the latter for an elaborate Venetian ball gown). They retail for $30 to $300. Children’s costumes sell for $20 to $60.

Ursula’s Costumes, 2516 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 582-8230. www.ursulascostumes.com.

Etoile offers a plethora of Purim guises, along with hats, shoes, makeup and other accessories. Rent an adult costume from $21 to $400 or more, or purchase one for about $45. Children’s costumes sell for $20 to $60.

Etoile, 18849 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 343-3701. www.etoilela.com.

3. Shpiels

One of the ways to celebrate the joys of Purim is the shpiel, a comedic performance planned for months in advance that ranges from satires of the original Purim story to skits parodying Jewish or communal life. Some synagogue shpiels use broad humor while others are roasts of the rabbi, president and congregational politics.

At Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, Cantor Marcelo Gindlin adds an Argentine twist to “The Megillah According to Broadway” by New York shpiel-meister and accountant Norman Roth. Featuring synagogue members and fifth- and sixth-grade religious school students, the musical will be presented March 2, following 7 p.m. Shabbat services and a megillah reading.

Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (310) 456-2178. www.mjcs.org.

Boogie with Congregation Kol Ami at “Uptown Shushan, Esther in the Big City,” a full-scale, original Motown Purim production on March 3. The evening begins at 7 p.m. with Havdalah and a megillah reading in Hebrew, English and Spanish, followed by the musical with its cast of 25. Afterward, dance to the cool spinning of DJ Groovy David.

Congregation Kol Ami, 1200 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 606-0996. www.kol-ami.org.

Come to “Avenue P” at Temple Isaiah on March 3, where Mr. Rogers narrates the Purim story. Esther, Mordecai and the usual cast of Purim characters appear as puppets, along with three sunglasses-wearing, Haman-conspiring camels. Religious school students, with handmade sock puppets, serve as a Greek chorus. “Avenue P,” free and fun for the whole family, follows the 7 p.m. megillah reading.

Temple Isaiah, 10345 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310)277-2772. www.templeisaiah.com.

4. Carnivals

Purim is made for children. And so are Purim carnivals, which feature raffles, games, costume contests, food and fun. But carnivals are not just for kids. Adults can enjoy a little bit of cotton candy, too. While carnivals in the city often are held before the holiday, Purim falls on a weekend this year, and so do many carnivals.

Learn about organizations that tackle poverty, AIDS, illiteracy and other social ills at IKAR’s second-annual Justice Carnival at the Westside JCC and have fun at the same time. The Justice Carnival for Adults on March 3, 8:30 p.m., also features blackjack, Scotch tasting and dancing. For families, the Justice Carnival offers a moon bounce, face painting and spin art, as well as games and food on March 4, 1:15 p.m. $5-$25 (members), $10-$35 (non-members).

IKAR, Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 West Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870.

Witness to Redemption


The episode of the Akedah, or the binding of Isaac, presents so many difficult questions. One of the most basic is: For whom is this human and Divine drama staged?

Who comes out ahead as a result of the Akedah playing out?

Is it for Abraham’s benefit? Abraham receives no new blessings or rewards. Additionally, it’s difficult to argue that he learns anything about himself or God that he didn’t already know.

Is it for God’s benefit? We can only make this argument if we are prepared to set aside deeply entrenched beliefs that God’s omniscience includes His knowing Abraham’s character and the degree of Abraham’s devotion. God, it would seem, does not need the Akedah.

So who is it for?

In Megillah (31b), an account is given of an encounter between Abraham and God. Abraham seeks reassurance that his (as yet theoretical) children will indeed inherit the land of Canaan. Despite God’s repeated promises to this effect, Abraham remains uneasy.

“Perhaps they will sin,” Abraham says, “and You will do to them as you did to the generation of the flood.”
Even though God then insists that He would do no such thing, Abraham persists: “How can I know? What will you do, God, to guarantee it?”

It could be that God’s response to Abraham’s request is the command of the Akedah. It could be that the Akedah is the means through which God guarantees Abraham’s children would never sin to the point of being worthy of destruction.

“Do you want to be sure?” God says. “Then take your son, your only son, the one whom you love, and offer him up as a burnt offering upon the mountain that I will show you.”

How would this ensure anything?

The answer becomes clear when we consider the impact the Akedah has had on Jewish history. As Rabbi Yitzchak Arama reminds us, the Torah records the whole story of the Akedah for us so that Jews throughout history could “virtually” witness the Akedah. As a result, Jews of all ages have been shaken and moved by this account of devotion to God without limits, of commitment to God without boundaries, of the willingness to spare nothing in the pursuit of God’s vision.

Who could then deny the assertion that the Akedah has repeatedly, over the course of Jewish history, saved us from the fate of the Generation of the Flood, from the fate of disappearing from this world without a trace? Because of our sins, we could have disappeared at the hands of the Babylonians. But Jeremiah rose repeatedly, risking life and limb, to convey the message of God that we must not believe that this is the end. That if we return, we shall be redeemed.

From what story did Jeremiah draw the inspiration to remain steadfast and loyal to God’s vision despite the fact that doing so might cost him his life? Like all of us, Jeremiah was a witness to the Akedah.

Which story inspired Esther to gather up her courage and enter Ahasuerus’ throne room, risking her own life to save her people?

Which biblical figures was Rabbi Akiva thinking about when he defied the Hadrianic ban on public Torah study?

On the day of his execution, what story must he have been thinking about when he described his sense of joy to his students over the fact that he now knew that he truly loved God with all his heart?

And in a slightly different but not unrelated vein, how did it happen that not only the Jewish people survived the Shoah, but that Judaism survived the Shoah?

Abraham asked: “How will I know that my children will live on forever?”

And God answered, “Take thou your son….”

In other words: You and he will model devotion and persistence even in the face of possible death. And all will see it, and know it.

There is, of course, a startling but crucial implication to this reading of the Akedah. It requires that we assume that Abraham and Isaac knew that whatever was going to happen when they reached the mountain — however the drama would end, however many of them would descend the mountain alive — they knew that they were participating in this tortuous drama not for themselves and not for God, but for the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that they would never meet.

They did it for the unknown generations of people who would call themselves the children of Abraham and Isaac, for the generations that would need a model of love and devotion to God that they could latch onto and possess as their own, when their hour of trial would arrive.

“We do not ascend this mountain for ourselves,” father and son said to each other. “We ascend it to ensure the lives of those who will come after us.”

And for this reason, too, we hold them up as our models and heroes.


Yosef Kanefsky is the rabbi of the B’nai David-Judea Congregation, a Modern Orthodox congregation in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Celebrating a Shpiel-Good Holiday


“Ramvetlh QonglaHbe’ voDleH,” Beth Chayim Chadashim congregant Maggie Anton Parkhurst will say as she begins Chapter 6 of the synagogue’s Megillah reading on Erev Purim.

What?

It’s Klingon, the invented language of the “Star Trek” TV series and films, for “That night the emperor could not sleep.” And she’ll continue, “‘ej ghaHvaD QonoS laDlu’ ‘e’ ra’pu’,” which translates to “And he commanded that someone read the log for him.”

Reading the Megillah in esoteric tongues is part of the Purim fun at this Los Angeles synagogue, and Parkhurst has chosen this infinitely tongue-tying imaginary language of the Trekkies to make her bid at hilarity.

This is Purim, after all, the one time of year in traditional Judaism when men are allowed to wear women’s clothing. A time when comedy is king as clergy and congregants strive to tell the story of Queen Esther saving the Jews from near-extermination in ancient Persia through laughter-provoking Megillah readings, shpiels (Yiddish for skits) and other innovative forms that range from ribald to ridiculous, satiric to sacrilegious. And that sometimes necessitates creative interpretations of the parody/fair-use exception to the U.S. copyright law.

At Beth Chayim Chadashim, the number of languages used has snowballed since 2002, when congregants volunteered to add to the already established English, Hebrew and Yiddish readings. Over the years, the most unusual have included American Sign, Afrikaans, Ladino, pig Latin, Esperanto and even auctioneer-style English.

“Haman’s name is understood in all the languages, so everyone can boo and hiss,” explains synagogue past president Davi Cheng, who always reads in Mandarin or Cantonese Chinese.

And while Beth Chayim Chadashim’s Megillah reading is geared to the entire family, not all Purim celebrations are such child-friendly affairs.

“Bring your IDs,” Rabbi Brett Krichiver warns those planning to attend Club Shushan at Stephen S. Wise Temple. It’s the Los Angeles’ synagogue’s first-ever part-shpiel-part-nightclub Purim celebration and it’s R-rated, including a DJ and dancing, a cash bar, free food and clergy dressed as go-go girls, bouncers and cocktail waiters and waitresses.

The Empty Stage Comedy Theatre, an improv group based in West Los Angeles, will provide entertainment, veering from the basic structure of the story in ad-libbed and audience-inspired directions. Empty Stage artistic director Stan Wells says these trajectories might include King Ahasuerus’ request for Vashti to dance naked and Haman’s “overblown and probably nonexistent” attempted seduction of Esther.

In preparation, Krichiver is doing text study on the Book of Esther with the group, which includes both Jewish and non-Jewish actors.

“We’re bringing Purim back to its roots, turning Judaism on its head for one day of the Jewish calendar,” Krichiver says, adding “but nothing obscene.”

Adat Ari El in Valley Village is hoping to turn Jewish gastronomy on its head in a change of pace from last year’s original Broadway-style, musical film noir parody, “The Maltese Megillah,” which was written by congregant Peter Levitan. This year, the synagogue will present a reading of “mock scholarly papers” on the merits of the latke vs. the hamantaschen, based on the original debate at the University of Chicago in 1947.

In this exchange, attorney Levitan, representing the latke, is squaring off against former radio reporter Barbara Dab, who will prevail upon her investigative journalistic skills to establish proof of the superiority of the hamantaschen, which she believes is the perfect self-contained treat.

“You’ve got your bread, your starches, your fruit and your dairy. The hamantaschen has almost all the food groups except the green leafy vegetable,” she says, refusing to discuss fat content and emphasizing that its “grab and go” nature shouldn’t detract from its designation as a gourmet food.

Levitan, however, is unimpressed.

“First, that’s not even its name; its real name is ‘oznei Haman [Haman’s ears],'” he insists. “We should be suspicious indeed of anything that makes its way into Jewish people’s stomachs under an assumed name.”

Both Levitan and Dab are hopeful that this inaugural debate will become an established part of Adat Ari El’s Purim celebration. But in many congregations, it’s the Purim shpiel, which dates back to Talmudic times, that continues to reign supreme.

America’s best-known shpiel-meister may well be a New York accountant named Norman Roth, who this year composed his 19th consecutive skit for his congregation, the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan. Titled “Purim Night Fever — the Disco Megillah,” the shpiel spotlights Queen Esther singing “Stayin’ Alive” dressed in a white suit like John Travolta’s character in “Saturday Night Fever.”

Roth, 67, writes each shpiel in a different genre — including Broadway, Woodstock, Nashville and rock ‘n’ roll — always incorporating some version of the original Purim story and always completing the new script and lyrics before Labor Day. He estimates that his shpiels have been performed in more than 300 synagogues in the United States and Canada and one in Australia.

Roth grew up listening to Broadway and Tin Pan Alley music; he says he just wants to create an evening of joy: “I don’t even come down on Haman. We’re a politically liberal synagogue; we don’t believe in capital punishment.

Locally, for the third year running, Temple Akiba in Culver City will perform one of Roth’s scripts for its annual intergenerational shpiel. This year it’s Motown, with Little Mordechai Wonder and Haman Smokey Robinson and the Schmearacles.

“It’s therapeutic to get silly at least once a year in synagogue,” says Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, who once used a vacuum cleaner as a grogger, or noisemaker, to drown out Haman’s name during a Megillah reading. “Even on a day when the underlying message is very profound and very sobering.”

 

A Few Purim Celebrations


Adat Ari El: The Eat Goes On: A Latke-Hamantaschen Debate
Monday, March 13 at 7:40 p.m.
12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 766-9426.

Beth Chayim Chadashim: Megillah Reading in Multiple Languages
Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m.
6000 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 931-7023.

Stephen S. Wise Temple: Club Shushan (Adults Only)
Monday, March 13 at 8 p.m.
15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive , Los Angeles. rabbi@tbe.org

Temple Akiba: The Motown Megillah
Sunday, March 26 at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
5249 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, (310) 398-5783
See our online calendar for additional events.

PowerPoint Purim


 

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the reading of the Megillat Esther over the raucous screeches, foot stamping and grogger spinning that come following the reading of Haman’s name on Purim. Often the reader of the megilla has to wait until the noise subsides before continuing.

But for the deaf and hard of hearing, the opportunity to even listen to a megilla reading is often simply not even a possibility.

Given that fulfilling the mitzvah of Purim requires that we hear the reading of Megillat Esther, the Orthodox Union (OU) has come up with a unique way for the deaf and hard of hearing to participate in the mitzvah.

Our Way for the Jewish Deaf and Hearing Impaired, the OU’s National Jewish Council for Disabilities Program, will provide a PowerPoint megillah reading to some 50 synagogues across the United States and Canada.

How does a PowerPoint megillah reading work?

The program is distributed on a CD-ROM, and projects visual graphics onto a screen, along with the text of the megillah in both Hebrew and English. And when Haman’s name is read, special graphics appear, giving the cue to go wild.

The program, which was implemented last year in 20 synagogues nationwide, has also proved popular with the elderly, those with poor eyesight who have difficulty reading the text of the megillah and with young children. As a result, some Jewish day schools have begun incorporating the program as a teaching aid in the lead up to Purim.

Any synagogue can participate in the program by providing a $100 donation to Our Way. The money goes toward developing resources for the deaf and hearing impared.

For more information, visit

Viva Vashti


“Vashti’s the only one in the Purim story who should be congratulated,” my son Danny, 12, says.

You may recall that King Ahasuerus, who had been sumptuously drinking and feasting with his Shushan subjects for seven days, ordered his chamberlains to “bring Vashti the queen before the king wearing the royal crown [some sources say wearing only the crown], to show off to the people and the officials her beauty” (Megillah 1:11).

But Vashti, whose self-respect would never allow her to participate in a “Girls Gone Wild” video or a Super Bowl half-time show, refused.

Ahasuerus “therefore became very incensed and his anger burned in him” (Megillah 1:12). He consulted his legal experts who advised that “Vashti never again appear before King Ahasuerus” (Megillah 1:19). This was interpreted to mean, at best, she was banished or, at worst, beheaded.

“She died for what she believed in,” Danny adds.

And how was this courageous death rewarded? By total vilification by the talmudic rabbis, obvious adherents of the “no good deed goes unpunished” theory.

These rabbis claimed that she deserved to die, postulating that she was cruel and arrogant and, in fact, had forced Jewish maidens, while disrobed, to spin and weave for her on Shabbat. Or that because her grandfather was the notorious Nebuchadnezzar, who had destroyed the First Temple, she planned to prevent Ahasuerus from allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.

Other rabbis claimed she was an exhibitionist who would have relished parading naked but was self-conscious because leprosy had broken out on her body or, in another version, because the angel Gabriel had pinned a tail on her.

And from what basis do these far-fetched explanations emanate? The hardly incendiary line “But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment conveyed by the chamberlains” (Megillah 1:12).

Indeed, to appropriate a popular bumper sticker, if you’re not outraged by Vashti’s bad rap, you’re not paying attention.

Interestingly, Mordechai also takes a contrary stand in the story, refusing to bow down to Haman, who had been promoted to Ahasuerus’ chief adviser. Day after day, the king’s servants asked, “Why do you disobey the King’s command?” (Megillah 3:3). But Mordechai “did not heed them” (Megillah 3:4).

But while Vashti is condemned for standing up for her beliefs, Mordechai is praised, never mind that his act of defiance so enrages Haman that he schemes to murder not just Mordechai but every Jew in the kingdom.

“But otherwise there wouldn’t be a story,” my ever-practical husband, Larry, says.

“Maybe there shouldn’t be a story,” I answer.

Not for this holiday, which can’t decide if it’s a cartoon, a satire or another near-historical rendition of the near-annihilation of the Jews. This holiday that exhorts us to drink until we don’t know the difference between “blessed by Mordechai” and “cursed be Haman” and that applauds the murder of 75,000 innocent Persian citizens.

And, most disturbing to me, this holiday that promulgates the belief that women should be soft-spoken and obedient.

Ahasuerus and his experts aren’t upset merely by what they perceive as Vashti’s solo act of insubordination. Rather, they are concerned that all the women in the kingdom will follow Vashti’s assertive lead. And so they advise that an irrevocable decree be proclaimed in all the land that “all the wives will show respect to their husbands, great and small alike … and … every man should rule in his own home” (Megillah 1:20-22).

I understand that the story of Purim, whether fictional or not, takes place in a certain historical and sociological context.

But I also understand, more than 2,000 years later, that the anti-feminist values it espouses need to be exposed loudly, clearly and even stridently, especially when the rights of women worldwide continue to be constricted.

Purim presents us with an opportunity to increase awareness of female repression and exploitation by congratulating Vashti on her refusal to be a sex object, as my son, Danny, suggests — and by realizing that this story of excess, absurdity and superficiality, contrary to popular belief, is not in good fun. Rather, it is as vicious and insidious as any Jewish American Princess, dumb blonde or other ethnic or gender joke, and it doesn’t lend itself to defenses such as “lighten up.”

As the lone female in a house of four sons, ages 12, 14, 16 and 20, I’ve worked hard to deconstruct the story of Purim. I know I’ve succeeded when I hear Jeremy, 14, complain, “Mom, you’ve already ruined Purim for us.”

“Good,” I say, for my goal is to raise four enlightened sons who relate to females respectfully and equally. And my secondary goal is to eventually have four daughters-in-law who don’t despise me.

The Megillah tells us that more than 2,000 years ago the unexpected happened. This year, it’s time for the unexpected to happen again, the transformation of Vashti from villainess to valiant heroine.


Freelance writer Jane Ulman lives in Encino and is the mother of four sons.

Purim Briefs


Run and Deliver

Unless you are actually running the Los Angeles Marathon, the marathon and the myriad street closures are likely to inconvenience you. This year, as the marathon falls on Purim (March 7), it may inconvenience Jews delivering mishloach manot, or food packages traditionally delivered to friends and family.

The city has found a way for Purim revellers to run around the marathon. Adeena Bleich, the Jewish community liaison for City Councilman Jack Weiss, organized access through “soft closures” — not the actual marathon route, but close by — which will allow people delivering shalach manot to go through. The main street closures are going to be staggered from 4:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., so deliveries could be times for after 2 p.m.

Copies of the marathon map and street closure times were sent out to area synagogues to ensure limited interruptions in shalach manot giving.

For more information about street closures in your area,call Adeena Bleich at (310) 289-0353 or send e-mail to ableich@council.lacity.org . — Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

Megillah for the Deaf

It is a mitzvah on Purim to hear the reading of Megillat Esther, the scroll that tells the holiday’s story. In fact, some rabbis say that if you miss hearing one word of the megillah, then you have not fulfilled your obligation.

Certainly, deaf people would have a hard time fulfilling this mitzvah. The Orthodox Union has responded with a way that deaf people can “hear” the megillah.

The Orthodox Union’s National Jewish Council for the Disabled (NJCD) came up with the “PowerPoint Megillat Esther Program,” a CD-ROM that can be loaded into a computer and then projected to the front of the synagogue. A hearing person operates the equipment, following along with the cantor and pointing out the words being read using the mouse of the computer, which are the highlighted, karaoke-style, on the screen. Every time the name Haman comes up, the word is clicked and a graphic of stamping appears on the screen to simulate what should be going on in the synagogue at that moment.

Frank Duchoeny, the Montreal coordinator of Our Way for the Jewish Deaf, a division of the NJCD, developed the program two years ago. This year the CD-ROM, which is available to synagogues for $100, comes with a number of additional features.

“This year’s version has new graphics for Haman and the blessings recited before and after the megillah reading, and it also highlights the psukim [verses] that are recited by entire congregation,” said Batya Jacobs, Our Way’s program director. “The mitzvah of hearing Megillat Esther is a requirement for every Jew. Using our PowerPoint program will facilitate the inclusion of our fellow Jews who are deaf or hard of hearing within the community in this mitzvah.”

For more information or to place an order, call (212)613-8127 or send e-mail to arielib@ou.org . — GW

The Comic Esther

Think your kids watch too many cartoons with no educational value? Have them check out “The Queen of Persia,” a feature-length animated video about the story of Purim, and a graphic novel of the same title based on the video’s screenplay. The novel reads something like a Purim version of the “Asterix” comics — a guilty pleasure with a lot of humor and color on every page.

Shazak Productions, a Chicago-based media company, produced the Purim media to teach children in a fun way, said Rabbi Moshe Moscowitz, the company’s founder. A teacher for two decades, Moscowitz wants the book to spice up classroom learning, and therefore kept the book and video faithful to the authentic biblical sources.

“I want to give teachers new tools that really excite students,” he said. “Whenever learning material is presented in an exciting way, people will learn better. Our goal is to capture the fancy of everyone. Everybody, regardless of background, could pick up [‘The Queen of Persia’] and have a blast.”

For more information or to order “The Queen of Persia”CD, book or video, go to www.shazak.com or e-mail njpmail@mindspring.com . — GW

Purim Around the World


I know you’re going to have a lot of fun dressing up, eating
hamantaschen and drowning out Haman’s name with your groggers! Here are some
other interesting customs that used to be practiced at Purim around the world:

France — Because of the verse in the Megillah, “I shall
surely wipe out the memory of Amalek,” children used to take smooth stones,
write or engrave Haman’s name on them and strike them together during the
Megillah reading whenever his name was mentioned.

Egypt — Young men would ride through the streets of the
Jewish quarter on horses and camels to simulate Mordechai in the verse “and
they brought him on horseback through the street of the city.”

Italy — The youngsters would divide into two camps and throw
nuts at each other and the adults would ride through the streets of the town on
horseback, with cypress branches in their hands.

Germany –On Purim eve, torches containing gunpowder would
be ignited. During the Megillah reading, the gunpowder exploded with a
deafening noise.

The Queen’s Advice


The Megillah tells us that Esther found the courage to confront Ahasuerus, confess she was a Jew and not only save her relationship, but the entire Jewish people. And yet more than 2,000 years later, this Jewish girl can’t even find the courage to confront the guy I’m dating and confess how much I truly like him.

Dave and I met ordering margaritas at El Cholo. He asked for blended, I asked for salt; he asked me out. And while we both agreed to "just have fun," my heart’s come a-knockin’. There’s just something really special about him. I get butterflies when we talk and my spine tingles when we kiss.

I know we said we’d "keep things casual" and "see where things take us," but Dave takes me to unexpected places. Sometimes your heart’s coming up, so you better get this party started. Until now, I’ve spiced our courtship with a dash of flirting and a pinch of passion, but I’ve been too scared to turn up the heat. Dave’s "smarter than the average bear," and probably knows that people in a relationship may be closer than they appear. And yet, I can’t find the chutzpah to say those three little words: "I like you."

But why? I think I like him, so what am I so afraid of? His reaction. I’ll give him my heart; he’ll give me a pen.

See, boys like the chase, the mystery and any girl they can’t have. And confessing a crush puts a halt on the hunt. Men also have exclusivity allergies. They want to be with you but keep their options open. Like Ahasuerus, they want to have their queen and their harem, too. So revealing my true feelings to Dave will be more controversial than The Heidi Game.

We interrupt this exciting flirtship to bring you chick-flick sentimentality.

So how can I open up to Dave without scaring him off? How can I tell him how I feel without ruining what we have? Survey says: never tell your man "we need to talk." That phrase is the Sports Illustrated cover curse of relationships. He’ll be outta there faster than Casey FitzRandolph on speed skates. I also fear our heart-to-heart will take a turn for the sappy, and I’ll sound more desperate than a teen with a Casey Kasem long-distance dedication. How do I keep the talk truthful, but the tone teasing?

And so I turn to Esther for advice. She’s a smoking-hot babe who holds her own with her man. Perhaps she could teach this margarita-drinking, mensch-seeking singleton how to take a relationship risk.

When we meet Esther, she is a typical Jewish girl trying to please her new beau, Ahasuerus. She spends a year getting ready for their first date. She lets it slide that he doesn’t call the next day, or even the next month, after a rendezvous. And she refuses to call him first, scared to death of making the first move.

But then our heroine ditches her high-maintenance, timid beauty queen shtick and boldly goes where no girl has gone before. According to the Megillah, Esther breaks all the relationship rules and conquers the final frontier: The heart-to-heart talk. Who needs "Loveline" and Dr. Laura when we’ve got the Persian princess? Everything I need to know about relationships I can learn from the Meghillah.

Esther says, the best place to confront a man is over dinner. As men are more likely to swoon over a svelte girl, Esther also recommends dieting for three days before the big date. Our queen wore couture royal robes by Armani, but if yours are at the dry cleaner, any low-cut shirt, high-cut skirt will work. And most importantly, Esther reminds us to get the man stuffed with grub and plotzed on wine. When he’s full, drunk and happy tell him what’s really on your mind.

And so, this Purim I’m going to pull an Esther. I’m not going to wait for Dave to call me; I’m going to pick up the phone, reach out and touch someone. I’m going to lure him to my pad, cook up a feast, look him straight in the eye, and say, "Dave, I’m in crush with you." So thanks to Esther, Dave and I will be making hamantashen in no time.

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