There are several mitzvot to be observed for this day.
- Hearing the Megillah (the book of Esther) read from a scroll evening and morning
- Giving charity to the poor
- Giving gifts of food to friends
- Having a festive meal
So, we went to hear the Megillah last night. That's always fun - people my synagogue wear costumes. My husband went as a rabid Democrat (yeah, himself :)), including his mother's old Adlai/Estes felt top hat. Yes, his mother was a Stevenson Girl. He also wore his Gore/Lieberman tshirt (the one where the "i" in Lieberman is dotted with a six pointed star.) He also wore a bunch of campaign buttons, one of which, well...
It says, "White Hispanic Jewish Staff Mothers for Dinkins." Because his mother's best friend is a white Hispanic (her family came from a small town in Mexico that didn't marry the locals) who converted to Judaism in college, and whose older son was on Dinkins' staff. Therefore... And the one person in our shul who would get that got it - and then said that said son was out of the closet. Which we hadn't heard, but we did amuse other congregants by hoping he'd find a nice Jewish boy...
I was going to wear my pakua uniform with a skirt, but it was so filthy on Friday that I knew I couldn't wear it.
Anyway, one of the customs regarding the Megillah reading is that when the name "Haman" comes up, we make noise - swinging noisemakers, banging feet on the floor, whatever. I shake my housekeys. Jonathan uses the mouthpiece to his clarinet. One girl had a guitar. It's fun, at least at first, and at least that night. It's a lot more perfunctory towards the end of the morning reading.
The night itself was rather interesting. See, another custom is to get drunk, something honored mostly by teenage boys. Underage teenage boys. There are signs all over my neighborhood about only serving wine, not schnapps and not giving any to "bochrim" - underage teenage boys. You can think of Purim as similar to "Festival" from the classic Trek "Return of the Archons", except without the sex. These boys only really drink once a year, and so don't know how to handle it.
We were shouted at from the back of a stretch SUV on the way home - mixed "Purim Sameach" and profanity. We could hear songs and firecrackers half the night. We had a bunch of boys ring our bell and sing and dance for us for some money for their schools. And around midnight, I heard the oh, so charming sound of a boy throwing up in the street. :(
I'm hearing firecrackers now. This is new, btw.
We set up our gifts of food last night, except for the oranges. And this morning, we went to shul again for the second reading, where we gave money to be distributed to the poor. Last night, we also did an extra mitzvah - sometime before Pesach, one is required to give "maksi ha-shekel" - a shekel and a half, in silver. The normal thing in the US is for the shul to have three "silver" half-dollars. You "buy" the silver with regular money (as much as you want, with $1.50 as minimum) and then redonate the silver.
In other words, you *change* the money. This used to be done in the Temple itself, because most currency had pictures of gods or emperors on it, and weren't kosher to be donated. So you changed it for kosher money, without such images, with a slight profit for for the money-changers. Made life a lot easier.
Anyway, I'm home now. Jonathan is off delivering packages of food to neighbors (because we don't have kids to dress up and play messenger.) In an hour or so, I'll begin cooking the festive meal. We're having my brother and a friend from synagogue as guests. And we're serving this lovely Cabernet Sauvignon that will go perfectly with the Middle Eastern lamb stew I'm making.
Another custom is to give Purim Torahs. To that end, I'd like to submit my yearly offering : Purim Torah. Warning - slash. A/H :)
Ah Freilichen Purim to those who celebrate!