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“Hyesh Tzohelet U’Smechah Kamoni Massechah – Is there anyone as joyous as I, the mask” – Levin Kipnis

Shy Ashkenazi, Senior Shaliach, Pozez JCC on Thursday, February 25, 2021

I always loved Purim.

Growing up I used to think about my costumes a long time before the holiday, always trying to be creative, find a twist and make it fun. As I got older, I would make up characters for costumes and craft the costumes myself – buying materials, sewing, putting on the makeup. It was always the chance to be something else, different, a fantasy or a dream. For one day, I was not Shy - I was Superman, an old man, Papa Bear, the color red, and so many more. Over the years I was lucky enough to get to perform on stage as an actor with different characters and to wear costumes.

But this year is different. This year is the year of the mask. The quote at the top of the page is not necessarily what I would choose to describe a mask, or the sentiments attached to it, however in a year in which we all have been hiding behind a mask, no matter how fashionable and nice it is, all I really want to do is to take off the mask and just be me. In a year which symbolically started with Purim events that we watched one by one get cancelled, we end the year planning and attending Purim events online and have found other creative ways to celebrate the holiday. I feel like many of us are not back to our old selves quite yet.

In Israel, Purim is a huge celebration, with schools and workplaces filled with colors and parties, where Disney characters, kings, queens, superheroes and more fill the streets. Parade take place all over, TV and radio shows have Purim specials and Mishlochey Manot exchange hands. This year the celebrations are limited, a nightly curfew is in place for the holiday to prevent parties and congregating, and many students are still at home. Is the mask joyous? Not for everyone.

The main Mitzvot of Purim are – reading the Megilat Ester; having a celebration (with alcohol of course, as we are commanded to drink until not knowing the difference between blessed Mordechai and cursed Haman); Mishloach Manot – baskets of food for friends; Charity.

I must say that the two most important ones to me, especially this year, are the last two (although the celebratory one comes in awfully close in third place 😊). Yes, this year we filled food banks, gave charity, all supporting the needs of those around our community. This is yet another great opportunity to reach out to those close to us and make them happy by giving them Hamantaschen and treats, and to find a charitable (at least one) act that we can do.

So how am I going to celebrate this Purim?

I symbolically shaved and left a nice mustache, I made a charitable donation to a wonderful Israeli organization I believe in and I am going to join a fun Megilah reading from Israel - and now, if you will excuse me, I need to go and make some people smile with some fun treats and celebrate within the limits of our time.

Purim Sameach!


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