Every year our family dresses in a thematic costume. We have masqueraded as Pirates, Greasers, Indians, characters from the Wizard of Oz and more. This year we donned costumes as French artists with a beret, brush and all.
A couple of years ago, due to the proximity of Purim to Patrick’s Day, many people confused our Wizard of Oz costumes for leprechauns. In fact, upon visiting the hospital to share the spirit of our holiday, I was asked to visit an Irishman and share the good cheer. Of course, I obliged and offered a universal blessing for health and happiness!
Last week, I met Elvis. Well, I was walking through Time Square and noticed a man with greased black hair and a yellow silk jacket. I complimented him on his Elvis costume and he turned to me and remarked, “it is not a costume.” He mentioned he did not like mine as well and I walked away rather quickly.
Why do we don costumes on Purim? More than any other holiday, Purim highlights the importance of defining our inner self. Wearing costumes calls into question how we see ourselves and how do we project ourselves to the world. Do our clothes mask our identity or do they reveal our inner selves?
The central theme of Purim is about hiding identity and finding the courage to reveal it. At the beginning of the Megillah, Esther hides her Jewish roots. The nation of Israel submerges their history when attending the feast celebrating their own demise in the palace of Achashverosh.
Yet, the fate of the Jewish people turns once they and Esther reveal and affirm their identities. When the nation unites in common purpose and Esther proclaims her loyalty to her faith and people, redemption is at hand
In celebration of Purim, reflect on who you are as a Jew. Where do you draw your strength to stand up for your faith? Do you mask your real self or do your inner and outer personas align? Do you allow others to define you or do you project your authentic self?
Unmask the real you. Relationships grow deeper when we share ourselves with others and we can be honest and open.
Wishing you and your families a Happy Purim,
Rabbi Daniel Cohen