Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
I had my Purim costume picked out months ago – no doubt so had many of our students and staff. Our education is serious business, and seasoned Wornick students know yesterday’s Purim holiday is serious in spite of all its silliness. It is so totally different from any other day of the year as we – adults and children – all play in costume, sing juvenile songs, and shout irreverently during the reading of the Scroll of Esther.
Here’s what is serious about the holiday. Like Mardi Gras and the Hindu holiday of Holi that occur around the same time, Purim responds to a human need to confront the ambiguity of an in-between season. We emerge from the dark days of winter, but the weather is still unpredictable and lazy summer days are still on a distant horizon. Ski season is ending, and swim season is far off. Tax season is in front of us. High school seniors and prospective independent school students are making decisions about their school placements for the coming year. It is a time of deep anxiety that begs for comic relief.
Purim, Mardi Gras and Holi are colorful, joyful holidays meant to reset our compasses. Just as a well-timed joke or a silly comment can diffuse a particularly tense moment or reframe a difficult situation, so too these holidays help us to recalibrate. They ask us to stop taking ourselves so very seriously - to sift the chaff from the wheat. In the process, we learn to laugh at our own foibles, thus becoming more accessible and humble.
And here are some other things to consider about Purim: The sort of humor that encourages us to try on disguises and act with joyful abandon requires a safe community where everyone understands that this is play. What’s more, in order to “get” or to create the jokes running through the various Purim plays, one needs to be literate in the core subject matter. For the older members of our community, a close, serious reading of the Book of Esther - the text upon which the holiday is based - generates profoundly important discussions about civil disobedience, the treatment of minorities, stereotyping, acts of revenge and identities both hidden and revealed.
In all seriousness, when a particular tense moment emerges in the future, try to channel your Purim spirit. If you see me sitting at my desk in a very silly costume (it is extremely yellow this year), you’ll know that I’m working on sorting out what really matters.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach (Happy Purim!)
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