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Purim = Jewish Mardi Gras? Not quite!

Friday, 8 February, 2013 - 11:45 am

As New Orleans enjoys yet another weekend of parading, many are quick to draw a comparison between Mardi Gras and Purim. However, the external similarities of costumes, merriment and some imbibing are where the comparison comes to a swift end.

Purim is a holiday rich in spiritual meaning with layer upon layer of deep significance that serves as a source of inspiration throughout Jewish life and thought. I would like to share one example. The sages of the Talmud state the at the time of Mordechai and Esther the Jewish people displayed a commitment to G-d and His Torah that was greater than they had at Mt. Sinai. To the extent, that the Talmud describes Purim as the final step in the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah, which had been left incomplete at Sinai for various reasons.

What was the great dedication that was on display during the Purim story that renders it greater than Sinai? The answer is Mesirut Nefesh – self-sacrifice. The entire Jewish nation was threatened with annihilation by Haman and his minions. For almost a year the threat of a “final solution” hung over their heads. A simple declaration by any Jew “that he was no longer a part of this people” would have saved him from this threat. Yet, not a single Jew even entertained the thought disassociating himself from his people and G-d for the sake of saving his life. This connection to Hashem touches the very core of the Jew and therefore he is willing to risk death rather than to be severed from Hashem.

This powerful connection to G-d that was evoked during the Purim story was deeper than the one that was on display at Sinai when we said Na’aseh V’nishma (we will do and then listen). The lesson for us – who are blessed to live in a time when we are not persecuted for our Jewishness – is that we must strive to see to it that our Jewishness takes on the same sense of urgency during good times as it did during the tough times. When we live in this heightened state of G-d consciousness, the allures of a society of plenty will not distract us from our dedication just as the threats of persecution did not during the difficult times.

Purim is two weeks away. Here is a sampling of Purim related activities offered by Chabad of Louisiana.

Kabbala and Dinner for young Jewish professionals: Monday, Feb 18 @ 8 PM. Topic:  A Purim Murder Mystery. For more info:  

Lunch N Learn Downtown NOLA: Tuesday, Feb 19 @ 12 PM. Topic: Hidden, Yet Everywhere – the absence of G-d’s name from the book of Esther. For more info: This month’s class is sponsored by Dotan Bonen.

Megillah Reading and Purim Bash: Saturday, Feb 23 @ 7:30 PM – Chabad Uptown and Chabad Metairie will both be hosting simultaneously. Come in costume! Refreshments and Purim fun!

Purim Brunch and Pub Quiz for Young Jewish Professionals: Sunday, Feb 24 @ 11 AM – Chabad Uptown. For more info:

A Rockin’ Moroccan Purim Feast: Sunday, Feb 24 @ 5:30 PM – Chabad Metairie Casbah. Chabad of Louisiana’s grand Purim event features sefardic singer, Yossi Nahmias in concert, Moroccan cuisine and décor, a masquerade for adults and a special program and contest for kids. For more info or to rsvp:

For all of your Purim study, info and how to, please see

We look forward to celebrating with you!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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