Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Purim Celebration, Family Style

Something you may not know about me: I love to entertain. 

You might think it incongruous to my personality as a major introvert to enjoy having crowds of people in my house for hours at a time, and I guess it is, but that has never seemed to matter. I love having those crowds, and everything that goes with it, from the preparations before, to the stragglers that stay behind after most everyone else has left, and even to the clean-up of the detritus that signals a good time had by all.

Part of it is that I really like my house and I like to have people in it, but I think most of it is that I am a nurturer. I didn't always know this about myself, and it took me longer to understand it once I did, but the truth is, I like to take care of the people close to me.

I have always found a unique pleasure in cooking and watching the people I love eat the things I make. The need to feed is more than just the physical act of putting food on the table, but it is also the quiet contentment of gathering my people from wherever they may be, to sit together, eat together, be together.

This past Saturday night and Sunday was the Jewish holiday of Purim, where we commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to wipe them out of the Persian Empire. In celebration of the fact that we are still here, having not been destroyed by the evil Haman, we are commanded to take part in four separate mitzvot, or obligations, during the day. We hear the megillah - the story of Purim - twice, we give gifts to each other, we give gifts to the poor, and we take part in a festive meal, also called a seuda.

In the past I have either gone to someone else's seuda or, in years where Purim falls on a weekday, had a makeshift seuda wherever I happened to be. But this year with Purim falling over the weekend, I decided to have a seuda at my own house.

So I spent Sunday morning cooking, and in the afternoon family and friends descended for a Mexican-themed sit-down. And the food was great - if I do say so myself - but sitting at the table surrounded by some of my most important people was what made the day for me. Family and friends that are both new and old. This life that is real and true and very much mine.

And as the sun began to set and the day drew to a close I felt warmed from the inside and lifted up by this tradition to gather together to eat and to celebrate. To say, both quietly and with raised voices, this is us. We are still here

And here we will remain. 


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