Friday, March 1, 2013

Purim

Purim is of course all about fun.  It is a holiday unlike all other holidays.  All normal rules are suspended.  Costumes are worn.  Drinking is not only encouraged but required.   We laugh and sing, celebrate and feast.  As we read the Purim story we drown out the evil Haman’s name with noisemakers.  The story is almost farcical.

Curiously God is not even mentioned in the story.  Imagine that.  Here is the biblical book of Esther and the Bible’s greatest hero is absent.  Is it possible that our Bible is satirizing our history and traditions?  That is certainly one perspective that Purim offers.  Don’t take yourself so seriously—at least one day a year.  Even our holiest of books is treated with a certain irreverence.

I have been thinking about the proper place of irreverence in our lives.  I just saw “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway.  I have to admit that the last time I laughed this much was when I say “Avenue Q.”  In both instances what was so extraordinarily funny was that which we hold most sacred was subjected to withering ridicule.  To see the puppets that so many of us watched as a child perform all manner of adult behaviors was hilarious.  To view religious tenets mercilessly satirized makes us laugh as well. 

Can there be a place for such sentiments within our religious lives?  Purim suggests that the answer is yes.  Even our most cherished beliefs must be held up and ridiculed, if only briefly.  For those who are secure in their faith, there is no worry that such parodies will undermine belief.  It is the weak of spirit who worry about such things.  A Mormon leader was for example quoted as saying, “Of course, parody isn't reality, and it's the very distortion that makes it appealing and often funny. The danger is not when people laugh but when they take it seriously..."

Satire, and even irreverence, can serve to strengthen faith.  That is Purim’s greatest lesson.

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