Amidst the world events, be happy it’s Adar.

Growing up and attending Hebrew school I remember when it was the Jewish month of Adar and the Hebrew school teachers would tell us, “Be Happy, It’s Adar.” This is the month that the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Purim. It is a time of gaiety and celebration, as we tell the story of the Jewish people and their triumph over the wicked Haman who sought to destroy us. The holiday, which begins Saturday evening, has several mitzvot attached to it including hearing the story or Megillah read, giving gifts of food to friends and family, and helping in the distribution of charitable donations either money or food to two poor people.

I believe I have written about this holiday every year since I began this blog. There was one post that I shared about the custom of mishloah manot giving gifts to friends and another where I told about how our community does a pots and pans collection as part of our Purim celebration and a third post where I shared the story of our synagogue’s traditional Hamantaschen fundraiser.

However, this year I have to say I am struggling to feel particularly happy this month or even entering this joyous holiday. There has been so much devestation this week in Japan and the difficult news stories continue to overwhelm me.  In addition, last Friday in Israel there was a horrific killing of five members of the Fogel family in their home in Itamar.

The only upside I can see is that at any time of catastrophe people do surface and become heroic in their own right. A grocery shop owner named Rami Levi, who owns one of the larger supermarket chains in Israel visited the Fogel family during their shiva, bringing food for the family and guests. He told the family that he is committed to delivering food and stocking their family home until the youngest orphan turns 18 years old.

In Japan, some of the heroes are the workers who have remained on at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant risking their own lives to continue to do what they can to prevent a further catastophe.

In light of these events across the world, it’s hard to know what we can to do that will really make any difference. Focusing on the bad news has never been a strategy of mine and looking for the good in these dark situations is something I prefer to do. But this time, probably due to the magnitude and distress of these two situations it’s been harder.

I know I can give money, of course, and will use the holiday of Purim and the mitzvah of giving money to do just that, but somehow that doesn’t feel like enough? It is usually unclear what the best thing to do in such a catastrophic situation, but I am beginning to wonder if that is how life is. We can not control the outcome of our lives. There will be difficult and dark times and there will be amazing times filled with happiness. We just don’t know when our lives can be altered forever. So although I might not feel as happy as usual while delivering this year’s mishaloch manot and celebrating Purim, I will do my best to make sure to continue to look for whatever ways I can to make a difference.  That is all any of us can do.

Pots and Pans for Purim

This Saturday night, Jewish families will celebrate the spring holiday of Purim. I have written about Purim before on my blog since it is a wonderful family holiday where kids dress up in costume, give gifts to friends and family, eat a festive meal and generally enjoy the celebratory feeling.

Last year, Roz Babener, the director of  the Community Warehouse, a charitable non-profit that redistributes furniture and home goods to approximately 100 social service agencies throughout the greater Portland metro area, had the idea that synagogues could  gather pots and pans and cooking utensils prior to the Purim holiday, use them for noise makers and then donate them to needy families. (NOTE: During Purim, it is customary when we hear the story retold to make as much noise as possible when we hear the name of the evil Haman.) The experiment last year was such a success that Pots and Pans for Portland is being established now as a yearly event.

The Community Warehouse hopes to share their idea with other Jewish communities around the country that might want to implement similar Pots and Pans for Purim events in their community. Information on the Pots and Pans for Purim how to kits are available online. Visit communitywarehouse.org or contact Roz Babener at roz755@aol.com.

Purim

938) Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim is characterized by a public recitation of the Book of Esther,  giving mutual gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal. Purim is a wonderful time for families. Everyone is encouraged to wear costumes, play-act and eat hamentaschen, a delicious cookie. One of the mitzvahs for this holiday is Mishloach Manot  or giving gifts of food to friends. This has become a favorite part of this holiday since  my children were born. Each year they have helped me as we decorate small brown paper bags of food. My son always wants to eat the food we are giving away. I usually try to give the gifts to friends who may not celebrate this part of the holiday. We delivered our gifts both Sunday and Monday. As always it was fun to participate in this mitzvah.

939) Called a friend to let her know her cat was out and eager to get back inside.

940) Made several comments and suggestions to a colleague who requested help on a project.

941) Volunteered in my son’s classroom.

942) Helped someone carry items into their office.

Asking for forgiveness when you behave inappropriately….

636) Volunteered to help out with the Cookie Dough delivery for our school. Harder physical work than I had imagined.

637) Volunteered to pick up some garden product for our upcoming plant sale.

638) In Judaism, during our spring holiday of Purim we make gifts for others and deliver them. These are suppose to be gifts that include three different kinds of food that would have several different blessings said over them (Jews say a blessing for different foods before they were eaten). My kids and I have done this together since my daughter was an infant. Each year they are excited to get the food (usually it includes a juice box, peanut butter sandwich crackers, hamantaschen the traditional triangle shaped cookie and some kind of chocolate). We assembled them one weekend day and on the day before Purim we delivered them after school together. They are fun to give especially when you get to leave them as a surprise for someone. I hope my kids will grow up and do this with their kids since I have always loved this custom.

639) Today at the Purim celebration, there was a small child probably around 3 who was lost and crying for his father. I helped him locate his dad and the look on the child’s face when we had found his father was priceless.

640) Last week, my husband and I decided last minute after dinner to go to the gym for some exercise. We made our plans quickly and he left first and I was going to join him about 1/2 hour later so that I could attend an evening yoga class. There was likely going to be about 10-15 minutes when neither of us could be with the kids so we had planned to let them sit in the ladies room in the lounge area where they could view on of their favorite cables shows (we don’t get cable at home). A trainer from the gym was in the locker room and told my son he was too old to be in there. I was getting ready to go to my class and was furious when I heard this and was very rude and nasty when I spoke with her. I told her I would take responsibility if anyone complained and left my kids so I could start my class. They were instructed to meet Daddy in 15 minutes outside the locker rooms. I was so distracted during yoga and had a hard time meditating because I felt so bad about how I had treated this other person. As soon as the class ended, I found her and apologized. I told her I knew I had handled myself poorly and was embarrassed at my behavior. She forgave me and even offered to help in the future if we ever found ourselves with a small window and no place for my son. I guess even when we do something inappropriate we can learn from our mistakes and say we are sorry.