Everyone will remodel into fancy dress as the calendar turns to the Purim date. We will marvel at the royalty of a Persian king and queen. Young lads in football jerseys (red or blue) will pretend to bask in the limelight of fame while the girls sprinkle the dust of a fantasy fairy. And on that magical note, Harry, Ron and even Dumbledore could make an appearance. There will be cowboys in battle, chefs cooking a storm, pirates with eyepatches and of course, emojis with comical smiles.
So it’s time to go online and Google ideas for this year’s Purim costume but please, please leave the Grinch outfit behind.
That furry green pessimist that Dr Seuss rolls out to the Who’s of Whoville every December seems to be present amongst the Jews of ‘Jewville’ in the Hebrew month of Adar. He wears rolling eyes, a dark frown and sighs in silence as fun arrives.
The ‘Grinch of Jewville’ differs from the classic Grinch in that he doesn’t seclude himself on a mountain in isolation. He is in our shuls and at our community events. He doesn’t make a sound but the scepticism on his worn-out face sucks out the joy from such a special day. We get annoyed with him for being such a party-pooper and yet, as dull and grey as he seems to be, we can’t help but invite him into our lives.
Who is the Grinch of Jewville? Where does he come from? What’s the source of his odorous misery? He is not necessarily the old man at the back of shul complaining about the informalities of the day. Nor is he the kid that throws a tantrum during the Megillah reading. He certainly isn’t the brave individual that won’t be peer-pressured into irresponsible drinking or the person who acts with dignity among some drunken friends.
Let’s face it, the Grinch of Jewville is inside each one of us. It’s that voice in our head that questions the very essence of Purim and looks to undermine each mitzvah of the day. Let’s see how…
When giving gifts to friends, the Grinch asks:
“What’s the point!? These bitesize parcels will be chucked away before Pesach or recycled and regifted to a forgotten friend. They take up space in the pantry and ruin our diet. They melt in the car and worst of all, they make our kids hyper.”
When giving gifts to the poor, the Grinch of Purim meets his cousin the Scrooge. They cynically cast a shadow of doubt on the motives of the poor: “Are they taking advantage? Do I really need to give something to each one? I’ll be broke by the end of the day!”
During the Megillah reading our inner Grinch bemoans: “It’s way too long!” And when it comes to Haman’s name, he quotes from Dr Seuss’s book itself: “Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!”
At the Purim meal, murmuring under his breathe, the Grinch proclaims: “What a pain! Can the dining room really fit one more? Don’t forget to cater for the vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, nut allergic and diabetic friends. Plus we have to sit and make conversation with every tipsy guest. And of course, there is the price of kosher food…”
In truth most of us are not horrible little green creatures, but Dr Seuss might be right when he said there are times when our hearts are two sizes too small. No one can deny Purim comes with a price. There IS a racket in shul when we shout for Haman. We may not want an extra bag of chocolates for Mishloach Manot. The motives of someone asking for money may seem questionable (or not) and hosting a meal is a big task. But at the end of the day, it’s Purim!
For one day of the year let’s be givers without question and thought. Each mitzvah of Purim promotes a spirit of unity, magnanimity and simple love. There are enough Hamans out there fostering hatred and hostility. Hamans are evil but Grinches are kind. They just need to make sure their hearts are three sizes too big.