In the spirit of Purim frivolity, the front page of this week’s American Jewish World featuresÂ an article about Jewish chefs cooking with pork, and there is a photo of a pig.
It was not our intention to offend Jewish readers — whether they observe kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) or not — with the pig photo. Rather, the article and photo reflect something of the carnival spirit around Purim observances.
“While Jews normally come to the synagogue in suits and dresses, their attire on this playful holiday of Purim is more likely to be costumes and masks,” write Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in Jewish Literacy. “Although many women model themselves on Queen Esther and many men on Mordechai, I have seen people come to services dressed as robots or as members of the Women’s Liberation Army of Shushan (the Persian city where the Purim story takes place).”
Telushkin continues: “The synagogue service is usually followed by a party where the command to get drunk is carried out. Very often, members of the congregation perform skits based on the Purim story… At many yeshivot, Purimshpiels are performed, and fun is poked — through plays and skits — at the school, its teachers and rabbis, as well as at traditional texts that are usually treated with reverence.”
So, the front page story and photo in the Jewish World this week should be seen as a journalistic mask for Purim. In a world beset by poverty, war and other calamities, we all need to lighten up from time to time. Our sages had a maxim about the Hebrew month in which Purim falls: “From the beginning of Adar, we increase our happiness” (Ta’anit 29a).
Don’t worry about the pig; be happy. — Mordecai Specktor