I pull away from it this year with a sad feeling.
My wife and I didn’t start observing Purim until we were in our mid-30s. The first time someone left mishloach manot on our front porch, we had no idea what it was for.
Since then, we’ve observed the fast of Esther, we’ve dressed up in costumes, we’ve dressed our children in costumes, and we’ve gone to hear the megillah read. We had a megillah written and donated it to our synagogue in honor of our younger daughter’s bat mitzvah.
We found friends who were like us, looking to learn something new that we hadn’t experienced before. We found a chevrah, a group of friends, and for years we’d meet and have a family Purim meal.
It was a wonderful feeling to all be in this together. Some years, there’d be a speech, most times not. People would file in and out to share food and drink. We’ve even had one meal where two single adults met; later, they got married.
Over time, though, the group diminished. Indeed, some of us became grandparents. Lisa and I have headed up to New Haven, Conn., to spend a couple of Purims with our older daughter’s family.
This Purim, we were looking to stay in town and be with our friends. The meal was vegetarian and tasty. The conversation, however, took the get-together that we had come to count on for well over 10 years and turned it sour.
Somehow conversations about Esther, a great heroine in Jewish history, became a horrible bashing session. It started with a terrible joke and just went downhill. There was no talk of Esther or Mordechai. Instead, the discussion was used to bash and delegitimize gay people.
The remarks were cruel, uncalled for, and had no place at a Purim meal. Last year there were gay and lesbian Jews at our daughter’s seudah. I thought of them and knew that I felt closer to them than to the people I was supposed to be enjoying Purim with this year.
I was waiting for the gay-bashers to start attacking black people or Christians or anyone else not on their drunken radar.
Trembling with rage and disappointment, I explained how I felt to the jokesters. I got no reaction, so then I did something that I had never done before. With Lisa at my side, I walked out on the Purim party.
So how could it get worse?
On Sunday night, I was texted a photo and comment from a number I did not recognize.
The photo was of a large table and people in costume.
The comment that came with it: “And may we have Queen Esther’s spirit to stand in the gap at all cost and be willing to die for our God and His purposes in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus, the messiah).”
When I texted back that I did not recognize the sender, she identified herself as an acquaintance I met and exchanged cell numbers with. She is an active member of Christians United For Israel.
It ended with “Happy Purim! May HaShem bless your family with true happiness all year.”
They were Christians having a Purim meal.
Somehow I think they didn’t choose that place to utter the ugly, un-Purim like words I had heard at the dinner I attended. This doesn’t mean I support their mission. I don’t. But I see text, photos, and words from Hebrew Christians that look and sound more Jewish than what Lisa and I heard on Sunday.
Next year, I’m going back to my daughter’s house. I want to talk about Esther, Vashti, Mordechai, and the Megillah.
I want to enjoy it with little children making noise, and without hearing about any other Jew’s lifestyle.
I want to love Purim again. I want to take it back from what happened on Sunday.