why do you dress up on purim
Q. Why do we dress up with costumes on Purim? A. It is an ancient Jewish custom to dress up in different costumes on Purim. In the story of Purim, the Persian king Achashveirosh gets drunk at a party and kills his queen, Vashti. He then marries Esther a cousin of the Jewish leader Mordechai. When the kingвs prime minister, Haman develops a plot to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire, Mordechai convinces Esther to use her influence with the king to save the Jewish people. In the Purim story plot there are no outright miracles but many unrelated details come together to save the Jewish people. It is not a story of supernatural Gвdly involvement like the exodus from Egypt that involved ten plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea. It is a story of natural events playing out in a way that is evident that there is a вhidden handв directing the story of events and ensuring a happy ending. Purim reminds us that while we donвt usually see вsea splittingв miracles, there is a вhidden handв directing our experiences ensuring our lives play out according to the divine plan.
While our world seems to be running on its own full of random unrelated events, it is Gвd who hides behind the curtain of fate directing our experiences. To celebrate that, we hide ourselves by dressing up in costumes, appearing as something else, while our true selves remain hidden underneath the masquerade.
Costumes and dressing up are major components of Purim celebrations, as many of you know. But why is this so? Before I go into the different reasons and interpretations as to why we wear Purim costumes, IБll tell you right now that we donБt dress up in order to go Бtrick or treating! Б Yet I do hope that this article will be a real Бtreat! Б There are several reasons that we don. One is because Purim represents Бthe hidden.
Б Unlike Passover, for example, where the story and miracles are obviously supernatural, the miracles of Purim are not so obvious. In the Book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim, there are no seas splitting, no frogs jumping in the kingБs bed and no revelation upon a mountain. Rather, the sequence of events is a string of БcoincidencesБ that read much like a Shakespearean play, including a drunken king, a beautiful queen, an evil villain, a plot to destroy the Jewish people and, finally, a Jewish hero who saves the day. His name does not appear once in the Book of Esther. He is completely hidden in between the lines of these БcoincidencesБ where everyone БcoincidentallyБ appears at the right place at the right time. It is in the spirit of all the above that we wear Purim costumes. Just like God was hidden in the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people, we too hide ourselves on Purim to recall that even when itБs not so obvious, God is always there.
Another reason offered is completely different. is a major part of the Purim celebrations. Those who are needy go door to door over the course of the holiday, asking for money. They also go from synagogue to synagogue during services. Indeed, there is probably far more Бclanging and bangingБ of coins heard in houses of worship than there are БAmens! Б As such, a number of commentators suggest that the wearing of Purim costumes is in order to allow these poor and unfortunate people (along with everyone else in the community) to dress up and hide their identities while collecting charity. In this way, their dignity is better preserved. In a similar vein, perhaps it can be suggested that the wearing of Purim costumes also preserves another form of dignity. Drunkenness Бresponsible drunkenness Б is also a major part of the celebrations.
And we know what happens when some people get drunk Б they act like monkeys, to say the least! As such, by wearing Purim costumes, oneБs dignity (identity! ) may be better protected in the event that one says or does things that, well, only a monkey would do. COME AND JOIN THE FUN! Finally, another reason is to recall the many times in the Book of Esther that references are made to royal garments and fine fabrics. We read about the lavish tapestries at all the parties, the clothing that King Achashverosh wore, the outfits that Mordechai was dressed in, and much more. For this reason, many people endeavor to wear higher-quality Purim costumes conveying themes of wealth and royalty. There you have it. Now that you know why we wear Purim costumes, I hope you will participate in this entertaining custom as well! By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
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