At Purim, flip your lid
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At Purim, flip your lid

For Purim this year, I have a great idea for your costume. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive. It takes under three seconds to prepare. And it will go incredible lengths to promote Jewish unity.

Before the idea, however, a warning and a challenge: Even though it’s really easy, most people will find it really hard to do.

Flip your lids. That is, wear a different kippah.

If you wear a leather kippah, wear a velvet one. If you wear a velvet one, wear one of those Zionistic knitted ones. If you wear a knitted one, don one of those cheap shiny white ones.

It is also an amazing social experiment because you are the same person you were a moment ago when you had on your regular kippah. So why is it that all your friends look at you slightly different and wonder what’s going on?

Here are four perspectives on what, why, and how we should “flip our lids” this year for Purim, which is March 10 (or March 11 in Jerusalem):

1. It’s what inside your head that counts.

For men, wearing a kippah is important as a sign of respect for HaShem. But Jewish law allows a great deal of leeway as to what the head covering should look like.

What if just for one day, we changed the type of kippah that we wear? Would it help us see our fellow Jews from a different perspective?

This idea occurred to me recently when I inadvertently forgot to wear my standard black leather kippah when I walked to a neighbor’s house. Someone noted it and I asked to borrow one for the way home. That person lent me a velvet “yeshivish” one. I put it on and walked home.

My family was alarmed. Did I go “yeshivish”? they asked. But I was the same person before, during, and after my kippah “experiment.”

So here’s the first point: It doesn’t matter what you put on your head; it matters what you put in your head.

2. Only you can see my kippah.

The next point is also about perception. Unless I look in the mirror, I can’t even see my kippah. You see it. So the kippah is not really about me but about how you see it and what it means to you.

Our sages talk about how Purim is a holiday about hidden miracles. For example, God’s name is not explicitly in the Megillah, but our sages teach us that we can actually see that God is always present. In the same way, our kippahs are also hidden (from us). If we could change how we perceive our fellow Jews, that would be a big miracle as well.

3. Fulfilling the mitzvot of Purim.

One of the central mitzvot of the holiday is “misloach manot,” or giving gifts of food to your friends. Some of our sages note that its purpose is to promote unity among Jews, pointing out that unity was critical to our success against Haman and his plans.

Flipping your lid can also promote unity, as it will help us to realize that many of our differences are just external.

Another mitzvah on Purim is that you should drink until you can’t tell the difference between the “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” What does this mean?

There is mystical explanation. Some say that Purim is not just a story about ancient history but also an allusion to the future. This expression is a veiled reference to the world to come when we will see that all of our curses are actually blessings.

4. Just do it.

So who is going to be the first to swap the kippah? What will your friends think if they don’t do it? What will your rabbi think?

A question: What was the name of the second person who jumped in to the Red Sea when the Jews left Egypt? We know that Nachson ben Amidav was the first one to jump in, but what is the name of the second person? Give up? I don’t know either; I don’t think anyone does. But that is the point: We all know the first person who does something.

So the message is, be a leader. Be the first one to show up with a different kippah.

One point of clarification: I’m not encouraging levity in the shul. I am simply saying, swap the kippah that you always wear with the one that your friend always wears.

In Pirkei Avot, Hillel says, “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.” Perhaps we can replace “reached his place” with “worn his kippah.”

Having said all this, I realize that there are some very valid reasons for differences in the kippot we wear, as well as the way we dress, and that a kippah is often a very powerful statement of a certain lifestyle. But at the same time, is it possible for just one day to note that there are more things with which we agree than with which we disagree?

Purim is about hidden miracles – a kippah is a great metaphor for something that is hidden. So for just one day, flip your lid and see how it can change your perspective about your fellow Jews.

JTA

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