Oh, Purim, you are such a drama queen. Sometimes you overwhelm me with your wild behavior in synagogue, intrusive noisemakers and permission to drink until we forget the difference between Haman and Mordechai. Plus, how am I supposed to explain the sexy Vashti costumes, Slivovitz, sarcastic spiels or even eating Haman’s hat to my little ones?
As farmers, we usually associate Purim with the start of the farm season. Even though Purim is decidedly not one of the Jewish agricultural holidays, it can feel like one for us. During the weeks between Purim and Passover we are usually in a flurry of preparation for the farm season with piles of new seeds arriving and millions of tasks to complete.
These are the early spring days when outside tasks stretch further than the still-short daylight, and my husband can be caught running around the fields in a headlamp. In the days after Purim, we shake off our winter hibernation with daunting to-do lists that all come down to a single enormous task: “Conjure up a thriving vegetable, flower and herb from this frozen earth within the next six weeks. 1, 2, 3…GO!”
So why is this year’s Purim different from all the other Purims on our farm? It is the shmita (sabbatical) year! It’s the seventh year in the seven-year agricultural cycle, when we let the land lie fallow.
It seems on Purim we are supposed to turn things upside-down to get a shift in perspective. It reminds me of the quote about learning Torah: “Turn it and turn it again; all is contained within.” These days there is so much to worry about—extreme weather, rising anti-Semitism, the news from Copenhagen and Paris.
Maybe we need a drink, or permission to act wild in shul. Farmers need a spring without planting. Parents need to let their children sprint across the bima in ridiculous outfits. Twenty-somethings need to join the 80-plus set for a strong drink at a folding table at the back of the synagogue.
Our children know this intuitively when they hang upside-down off the couch or playground bars and say, “Everything looks so different.” Sometimes we need to turn things upside-down to understand them. And as we push our boundaries and break our routines, our worlds get a little bigger. Like a bird migrating slightly off course, or a traveler arriving in a new land, we expand our range. It can be a little scary, but Purim also teaches us to try to keep it light, have some fun with it.
This year, Purim feels appropriately upside-down on our farm because of the shmita year. We are not going to conjure a farm from the frozen earth in six short weeks. We will plant a garden for our family, bake some extra hamantashen and take a breath. It’s a little scary, but maybe we will expand our range a bit.
Happy Purim! I wish you the best in finding your own way to turn things upside-down to discover a new perspective.