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How do you celebrate Purim in Hawaii?

Thursday, 15 February, 2018 - 11:16 am

One of the more Halachicly controversial places to live in the world is Hawaii. For decades the Rabbinic authorities who were versed in the subject, maintained contentious discussions with regard to the Halachic location of the International Dateline. During WWII, when Shanghai became a haven for many Polish Jews, this issue became very relevant. What are the practical ramifications? The most glaring one would be when to observe the holidays, but there are many others as well. So much so, that some of the Chabad Yeshiva students in Shanghai during the war fasted for two days in observance of Yom Kippur in case the Halacha followed the authorities that said Shanghai was still on “our side” of the dateline. While the consensus seems to have been achieved; and Hawaii was deemed to be on “our side” of the dateline, there are still some lone holdouts on the matter. Today there is an established Chabad community in Hawaii and they follow the widely accepted ruling with respect to Hawaii’s place on the Halachic map.

Why am I telling you all this? Because this year’s theme for Chabad of Louisiana’s Purim Feast is “Purim in Hawaii.” Many question the need for these themes. What’s wrong with good old Mordechai, Esther, Achashverosh and clown costumes? Why reach to the end of the world and beyond to find these themes for our Purim events?

The truth is that it is not inherently necessary. However, Chabad under the guidance of the Rebbe, realized long ago, that the best way to keep our youth engaged in Judaism is to make it enjoyable. There was a time when most kids thought of religion as long boring services on the High Holidays, being dumped on Sunday morning at Temple so that parents could sleep or have a Sunday morning to themselves, drawn-out and meaningless Passover Seders, and giving money to plant trees in Israel. Why would anyone want to continue to be engaged in that sort of thing, when TV, sports, video games, and pop culture are so much more alluring? The solution is to make Judaism exciting and enjoyable. This is something that the entire Jewish world has caught on to and with good results.

A holiday can be enjoyable and exciting, leaving positive associations. A Mitzvah or Jewish tradition can be fun and something to look forward to rather than resent. So the themed Purim parties fall under this heading. There is nothing inherently that connects Pina Colada to Purim, and a Lei is no more Purim-like than a clown. But then again there is nothing that makes them inherently not connected. So when an exciting theme makes it more attractive for people to participate and celebrate, go for it!

So join us and say “Aloha” to Purim in Hawaii – on Purim day, Thursday, March 1 @ 5 PM. The venue is Torah Academy – 5210 West Esplanade Ave. For registration and information see,

The Jewish Power Hour Program is being rescheduled to the month of April. Exact dates will be released within the next few weeks.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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