When the month of Adar begins, one increases rejoicing.
מִשֶּׁנִּכְנַס אֲדָר מַרְבִּין בְּשִׂמְחָה
The rabbis of the Mishna in about the third century tell us that Jewish tradition teaches that when the month of Purim arrives, joy immediately increases. There are many joyous dates on the Jewish calendar, but besides Purim, none of them affect the entire month, causing it to be auspicious and joyous. What’s so special about Purim?
Purim is about people who really stood up for what they believed in, stayed true to themselves and really put their lives on the line to be upstanders. And, of course, they were threatened because of this, and the entire Jewish people were almost wiped out. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are lots of stories in the Bible where the Jewish people were almost erased, but none quite like the Purim story. In the face of great danger, they continued to have faith that they were doing the right thing.
Other holidays celebrate the “highs” of the Jewish people: coming out of slavery in Egypt, getting the Torah, miracles of oil. It’s easy to be happy when we’re riding a high. Purim, on the other hand, celebrates having faith when things seem bleak and celebrates standing up for what’s right when it’s not the easy thing. Purim is an authentic joy, the kind of joy that lasts. And that’s why the happiness of Purim spreads to the entire month and continues into the rest of the year.
“The month that was reversed for them from grief to joy.”
As the story of Purim tells, wicked Haman had a plan to get rid of the Jews on the 14th of the month of Adar, a date that was chosen in a random lottery. But, by the time the story is over, the Jews are saved and Purim is a joyous, celebratory day. Perhaps the persistence of Esther and Mordechai to stand up for themselves and to encourage the entire nation is the hope that reversed the decree!
And the joy train certainly did not skip the BJEP stop this year! We gathered together, in partnership with the Lemberg Children’s Center, for a fantastical and silly Purim celebration, and finished with some festive music from the Brandeis Hillel Klezmer Band. If you’d like to make some hamantaschen, which are good for this time of year or any time of year, and can certainly bring joy, follow along with our recipe below, used by our students at our Purim festival. Enjoy!
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup oil
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5½ cups flour
- Crack the eggs into a big mixing bowl. Mix the eggs with a fork and add the oil, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and salt.
- When everything is mixed very well, add 5 cups of flour a little bit at a time and keep mixing.
- When all the flour is added and it’s hard to mix, take the dough out and mash it together with your hands. If the dough is still sticky, you can add a little more flour.
- Break the dough into four balls that are all the same size
- Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it’s about ¼-inch thick.
- Use a cup or cookie cutter to cut 3- to 4-inch circles in the dough.
- Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the dough circle.
- Pinch or fold to make a triangle shape. Make sure the edges are pinched shut so the filling doesn’t spill out.
- Set cookies on un-greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
Sarah Pollack (she/her) is BJEP’s education director and is a student in the rabbinical ordination program at Hebrew College. BJEP, the Sunday morning program located on the Brandeis University campus, is more like summer camp than a school. Our students look forward to coming each week to learn in a way designed for kids. Our educators, who are Brandeis students, put a fun twist on learning while fostering critical thinking, communication and leadership skills. Through art, music and games, kids explore their Jewish values and Jewish identity, holiday celebrations, eco-Judaism and Hebrew. Learn more at bjep.org.
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