Image: A hand holding a grogger. Photo by Yonina, public domain.
I don’t know about you, but the news of late had really wounded me. I felt sad and angry for the poor people in Istanbul and Brussels, blown up and terrified. I have felt angry and helpless, watching certain candidates in the 2016 American election compete to see who could say cruel things about immigrants, African Americans and other underdogs in our society. I was angry with the behavior of my fellow Jews at the AIPAC Policy Conference, applauding speech that simply should not have been welcome there. (It is supposed to be a nonpartisan organization for improving relations between Israel and the U.S. Trashing the sitting President of the U.S. should not ever, ever be OK there.)
And I’ve done the things I do: wrote letters to my elected officials, wrote letters to Jewish community leadership, sent money to organizations that fight hate speech and ignorance.
Still, my heart was hurting. I felt blue. I did not feel like going to Purimshpiel last night, but I had promised to be there. And after all, it’s a mitzvah to hear the megillah. So I went.
As soon as we were inside the synagogue we were greeted by excited kids and grown-up “kids” getting ready for the Purim show. We admired each other’s silly outfits. I wore a top hat with a big pink scarf knotted around it – not a great Purim costume, but something. I’m so glad I did, because dressing up connected me to the healing silliness of the night.
First we gathered in the chapel to hear the Megillah. Cantor Keys did it beautifully, and I got caught up in listening to the story (learning Hebrew really does enrich Jewish experience!) I anticipated the mention of “HAMAN” so that I could cue the roar of groggers. Cantor Keys is a scholar and a cantor, and it was a treat to hear her do the Esther chant with all the little trills and ornaments. It was fun to try to catch the HAMAN’s.
There was something therapeutic about the sound of my grogger. It GROWLED. It growled out all my pent-up frustration, all my fury at world events and stupid politicians. It gave a sound to the feeling in my heart. It expressed my anger at all the Hamans in the world.
Then we ate pizza. (“They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”)
Then we had a Purimshpiel, a crazy riff on Star Wars that made no sense at all, but which had all of us laughing at the ridiculous puns and inside jokes.
I woke up this morning with my heart was in an entirely new place. I’m still not at all happy about those things I mentioned above, but I no longer feel defeated by all the evil in the world. I feel ready to fight for goodness and Torah. I will write more letters, I will write an op ed and send it to the paper, I will teach and I will get in faces and I will do what I can. In June, I’ll vote in the California primary.
I’m ready to be an agent for good in this world.
So, my lessons from the grogger?
- The obligation to hear the megillah is what got me to synagogue last night. Had I stayed at home, I’d still be feeling blue. Sometimes it is good to be commanded.
- Groggers are fun, but they are also expressive. My grogger said what words could not say about my feelings.
- Sometimes we need to get mad. Anger can be a motivator.
- Haman is all around us these days, but he will lose if we fight him. Evil will only prevail if we allow it.
- Silly is good. Silly heals.
- Purim works in mysterious ways!