I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
I have to admit that I started my celebration a bit early, but I couldn’t help myself. My husband, Adam made a batch of hamentaschen cookies, and I have been “helping out” by eating all the cookies with imperfections. You know, I always try to do my part! To be honest, however, I am a little irked because I believe poppy seed hamentaschen are the ONLY true holiday cookie option, and sadly, we only have fruit filling. (Cue the “awwwww” here.) Yes, we are a deprived bunch. But, now you know the true depth of my giving nature. I will even eat the cookie rejects…. and not one poppy seed hamentaschen in the bunch! Of course, I can’t button my pants anymore… but, since I am not leaving my house anytime soon, I figure that’s okay too.
What holiday is all this cookie eating for? Well, the joyous holiday of Purim! Held on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, this happy holiday commemorates the day Esther, Queen of Persia, and her cousin Mordechai saved the Jewish people from execution from Haman, the advisor to the Persian King (King Ahashverosh). This year, Purim begins on the evening of February 25 and ends on the evening of February 26. This dramatic tale also has deep underlying meaning, lessons and intrigue- all wrapped up with a wonderful message of Jewish survival… and of course, my poppy seed hamentaschen. Click here to read the entire story: https://www.learnreligions.com/story-of-purim-2076451
Today we will explore Purim’s fantastic celebrations, examine the hidden elements and how they are revealed, and learn how things are often “turned upside down” with this special holiday. There is much to share, so let’s get started!
“Chag Purim Sameach!” (Hebrew)
A “Freilechen Purim!” (Yiddish)
Purim- A Fun and Meaningful Holiday For Many Reasons-
- Important Customs-
- Listen to the Megillah Reading (or The Book of Esther)- Traditionally, Jews gather in synagogues and communally read the Book of Esther out loud, retelling the story of Purim. This year, due to social distancing, many synagogues are Zooming the festivities. Don’t let the constraints of Covid get in the way of your Purim celebration! Get ready…. this isn’t an ordinary service! Adults and children dress in costume, and have groggers (noise makers) that loudly rattle. Since we abhor evil Hamen, it is customary to boo, hiss, stomp your feet and rattle your grogger loudly to “blot out the name of Hamen.” The holiday is more informal, rowdy, and a little wild. …Those Jews… what a wacky bunch! If you are at home, you could even bang on pots and pans during the recitation of Hamen’s name. (However, if you choose this, please don’t tell anyone it was my suggestion. Thank you.)
Fun fact: Did you know that this is one of two books in the bible named for women?
Enjoy a Purimspeil: Many synagogues put on this amusing play or parody called a speil; it is often based on the characters in the Purim story. It is fairly ridiculous, and generally, you will hear a lot of happy groaning in the synagogue. Everyone looks forward to it!
- Eat a Festive Meal– Make a feast, that is fit for a queen- like Esther, or even yourself! In fact, why not wear a tiara while you enjoy your meal! It’s Purim… everyone’s doing it! Check out Jaime Geller’s Purim inspired challah ideas. This fun, pull-apart challah has a sweet surprise! Click here: https://jamiegeller.com/holidays/guess-whats-in-these-purim-inspired-challahs/ Then check out her 14 colorful Purim side dishes to add color and fun to your table! Click here: https://jamiegeller.com/holidays/colorful-purim-sides-for-a-happy-meal/
- Mishloach Manot (or Shalach Manot)- Traditionally, at this time of year, we send gifts of food to friends and family. They are often presented in baskets or gift bags and contain at least two different types of food including hamantaschen. Mishloach Manot also includes a wide variety of foods, and some Mishloach Manot even have a theme (like Israeli, Mexican or an American theme). This beautiful mitzvah is a way to show love, friendship and connection. In the age of the pandemic, it is particularly lovely to receive a thoughtful, unexpected gift left at your door. Watch this clip about 12 creative Michloach Manot baskets. Watch to end; it’s hysterical! (PS: Please do not consider the last two options!) https://www.bimbam.com/creative-mishloach-manot/
- Send Gifts to Those in Need- This is also called Matonot La’evyonim. Although you certainly do not need a holiday to help those in need, this is another beautiful Purim tradition. There are many wonderful organizations to give tzedukah (charity) to. Give to your favorite, or consider supporting The Jewish Community Pantry. The Jewish Community Pantry is an effort co-sponsored by the JCC and the Women’s Philanthropy of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, providing “emergency food to individuals and families in crisis throughout the greater Milwaukee community.” Click here for more information: https://www.jccmilwaukee.org/programs/community/jewish-community-pantry/
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
- Eat Hamentaschen Cookies- Purim has its own special cookie called hamentaschen. Named after evil Hamen, the King’s advisor that wanted to kill the Jews, this triangular-shaped cookie is symbolic and quite delicious! The unique shape represents Hamen’s hat or his ears. Traditional cookies are usually shortbread and the center is filled with poppy seeds or sweet fruit (like apricots, figs, prunes, or berry). However, there are more unusual fillings and recipes. I guess, anything counts if it’s a triangular shape! Check out this website for 32 crazy hamentaschen recipes. For example, try caramel apple hamentaschen, white chocolate and cherry hamentaschen, coffee cake hamentaschen, or even French soup hamentaschen! Who knew?? Me…I am sticking to my traditional poppy seed filling. Oh, I love it so. Click here for a little wacky hamentaschen baking: https://www.buzzfeed.com/marcelle/crazy-hamantaschen-flavors-for-purim However, if you are interested in a more traditional bent, check out Tori Avey’s website. She has tutorials on how to make the perfect hamantaschen, and how to fold the cookie. The folding piece is not my strong suit, but I am sure you will be a pro! Click here: https://toriavey.com/how-to/how-to-make-perfect-hamantaschen/ Finally, this is the actual recipe that my husband Adam used; a five star buttery hamantaschen recipe also from Tori Avey. (…No, I do not make a commission on her website! This is a happy coincidence.) The dough is rich with a hint of an orange. Super yummy. Click here: http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/buttery-hamantaschen/
2. Let’s Remember Queen Esther’s Strength- Let’s give a big cheer for our heroine, Esther! After all, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her strength and bravery. When Hamen was plotting to kill the Jews, she was willing to speak up and risk her own life to save the Jewish people. Just as Hamen symbolizes hatred and antisemitism, Esther’s courage, reminds us that we each have great strength inside to help ourselves and to assist others in need. This message is incredibly important today! When we see wickedness in our world through antisemitism, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or any type of hatred, it is essential we follow Esther’s example. Even in difficult situations, we need to find our inner strength, speak the truth and stand up for justice. Thank you Esther for being a wonderful model for us!
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
– Desmond Tutu
3. Looking Beyond the Hidden- Purim is a holiday with many layers. Despite the silliness and zaniness of the holiday, it also has deep meaning. Did you know that G-d’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah even once?! Although G-d is not mentioned, we see his presence as the events unfold and also in how individual’s respond. As we listen to the gantze megillah, or the whole story, we learn how each detail intricately weaves into another. G-d’s name may be hidden, but he is certainly not absent. For a moment, think about your own life and how you see his presence. Is it in the goodness of others, or maybe when you experience an unbelievable coincidence and outcome? G-d shows himself in daily acts and miracles. Purim reminds to have faith. Even though, at times, G-d may seem hidden, he is always there and waiting to be found.
In a similar way, we may need to look for the hidden essence in our friends/family with cognitive loss. Sometimes, we need to look deeper to unmask elements that are now veiled. This may take extra patience and love, but it is worth the effort when you see the spark in your loved one. If you feel stuck, I encourage you to try the strategies below. I hope you will see the light emerge.
“A blessing is present
only in something
that is hidden from view.”
Below are Ideas and Approaches to Help Uncover the Hidden Beauty in Loved Ones with Memory Loss:
- Enjoy a Creative Question Worksheet- Dig a little deeper and get to know someone better with this wonderful, fun exercise. This is an interactive, healthy way to bring out someone’s memories. For a lovely afternoon activity, print out the attached sheet, sip on a delicious cup of hot cocoa or tea, and talk. Personally, I LOVE creative questions! Besides sharing many smiles, I am often surprised and delighted by the answers I hear. Give it a try, and let me know which questions were your favorites. I would honestly love to hear.
- Meet Your Loved One “Where They Are At”- Sometimes it’s how you answer a question… For example, in Former Governor Marty Schreiber’s book, My Two Elaines, he shares a story. After his wife, Elaine asked, “ How old am I?” He said, “Rather than chiding her for not knowing, or even giving her a straight answer, I asked, “How old do you want to be?” And we had a good laugh.” This is a wonderful example in how to accept your loved one’s reality, meet them “where they are at” and share joy.
- Focus on Feelings- When you focus on the emotions, your interaction will feel brighter, and new things will emerge. Not only will your loved one feel supported, but you will both feel connection and love. Author Mara Botonis says, “Look for ways to draw out what the heart remembers, even if the mind forgets. Certain emotions are attached to different memories. Even when your loved one forgets something, they still know the feeling of that recollection. The result is that even if your loved one forgets a conversation they had with you, there is still a benefit. Subconsciously a person with Alzheimer’s/dementia may remember and feel the positive attitude from talking to you even though it is a forgotten experience.”
4. Get into the Purim Spirit-
- Enjoy the Maccabeats Purim Song– Click here to hear this delightful song of joy and hope! In the song they say, “So raise your glass if you see G-d in hidden places. He’s right in front of you.” Click here for the 4 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgJInVvJSZg
- Purim is Pretty Wild in Israel!- Here is a short, colorful video showing pre-Covid Purim and festivities. This will give you a flavor (1-2 minutes). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do79YEYcwJs
Get ready for the Megillah Reading and Make a Grogger- Click here for an easy grogger idea with cups. https://www.kixcereal.com/kix-cereal-noise-maker-for-purim/
5. Watch a “Museum Moment”- Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s Education Director, Ellie Gettinger sat down with Hazzan Jeremy Stein from Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid to discuss the upside down holiday of Purim. They explore the traditions around dressing up and the origin of the Spiel- all designed to highlight the sense of making a joke of something serious. Have you ever used humor or silliness to deflect from a serious situation? What was your favorite costume? Click here to watch this Museum Moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I6hZIG0ofw
Wishing you a wonderful Purim! I hope the holiday fills you with joy, positivity and hidden miracles. In addition, remember to “help your family” with the difficult job of eating the misshapen hamentaschen. Someone has to do it! A word to the wise… make sure you are wearing pants with an elastic waistband.
As always, if you have a question related to aging, memory loss or caregiving, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here for you, and happy to help. You can find me here: DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,