I’ll be honest, for a long time, Purim wasn’t my favorite holiday. Sure, I remember how fun it was to dress up as Mordechai, or Haman, or a Ninja Turtle and play carnival games at my synagogue. And I remember that most years I ended up taking, as a prize, a goldfish in a plastic bag filled with water, and it was touch-and-go if it made it home. But high school and college didn’t really feature a lot of Purim participation, and neither did most of my professional years. During seminary and when I first became a rabbi, I dreaded the thought of the upcoming holiday, because I’m not one to dress up, not even really for Halloween, and though I spend most of my weekends singing and speaking in front of crowds, I cringe at the thought of having to participate in a “shpiel.” Let’s face it, Purim’s celebrations are much easier for kids than they are for adults. Kids like to dress up, act silly, see funny plays, and win prizes, as seen by the fantastic Purim Carnival held at Hillel this past Sunday. You may have seen my son there in the princess costume, hypnotized by the jugglers and jazz band. But what about adults?
When I first researched Purim for adults, the only major aspect that came up was the mitzvah to drink. According to the rabbis, drinking on Purim isn’t just acceptable, it’s encouraged:
Rava said: It is one’s duty, to make oneself fragrant [with wine] on Purim until one cannot tell the difference between “arur Haman” (cursed be Haman) and “barukh Mordekhai” (blessed be Mordecai). (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 7b)
Well that’s all fine and good, but that doesn’t help with the Purim services, as I wouldn’t think it prudent to have Shabbat with a full bar in the back (though there’s an idea). So again, I found myself in a rut. How could I show the essence of Purim to adults? Purim is supposed to be the one time of the year when Jews don’t take anything seriously; not our religion, our rituals, our liturgy, our traditions, nothing. Everything can be manipulated, changed, made fun of, and turned upside down. All the decorum of our sanctuary goes out the window. How can I, a rabbi, who is supposed to be the pillar of religious decorum, the spiritual guide and counselor, evoke these feelings of carefree fun at our sacred moments of Shabbat?
When I was about to give up, it was my wife who rescued me, as is her wont in life. She suggested a service that would both wreak playful havoc on the standard liturgy and contain a joy and skill of mine, singing and playing guitar. And viola! Purim Rock Shabbat was born.
I have to say, researching contemporary music that would fit the themes of each of our prayers was a memorable experience as a rabbi, and one in which I took a great deal of pleasure. Combining music genres and multiple generations, I believe I have produced a fun-filled musical evening for all ages to enjoy this coming Friday evening. Finally, a way to celebrate Purim as an adult that’s awesome and fun!
Can a Lynyrd Skynyrd song evoke the feelings of Kabbalat Shabbat? Can the Grateful Dead help us celebrate the crossing of the Sea of Reeds? Can Silent Prayer end with a song by Oasis? I sure think so. But you’ll have to come and see for yourself! Join us this Friday evening at 7:30pm for Purim Rock Shabbat. Dress casual, like you’re going to a concert, and come ready to sing, sway, and have fun! Leave all your preconceived notions about Shabbat and Temple worship at home that evening, and get ready to rock!