Holiday Overlap

March 20, 2008 at 3:54 pm 1 comment

Purim typically falls sometime in February or early March. But because this is a leap year on the Jewish calendar, which is a lunar calendar and needs to add an extra month (adar alef) seven times out of every nineteen years* to keep holidays aligned with their corresponding seasons, Purim falls quite late on the Gregorian calendar.

Consequently we have in close proximity two holidays—Purim beginning tonight and continuing into Good Friday—whose characters, auras, couldn’t be more different.

Purim is a day of celebration. Children dress up in costumes and synagogues fill with congregants who, while listening to the reading of Megillat Esther, try to shout out the name of Haman, the evil prime minister of Persia (under the reign of King Ahasuerus) who set out to destroy the Jewish people. We celebrate because, as the story goes, Haman’s plot was foiled by Queen Esther, a young Jewish woman who was married to the king and whose goodness—along with her uncommon beauty—gained her his ear when her people needed it the most. There are several other holiday customs, including the giving of mishloach manot (baskets filled with at least two different kinds of food), the eating of hamentashen, and drinking ad lo yada, “until you don’t know,” meaning getting so sloshed that you can’t tell the difference between cursed Haman and blessed Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and another hero of the story. There is also, finally, the mitzvah (commandment) to make donations to the poor and/or needy.

Good Friday is the holiest day on the Christian calendar, the day on which (according to the Gospels) Jesus, after being charged with “blasphemy” during a sudden convening of the Sanhedrin late the night before, is crucified after a series of events throughout the day, including the Barabbas episode, in which a crowd of people condemn Jesus’s life over that of a convicted murderer. Jesus languishes on the crucifix for several hours before he dies. Afterward, “Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus, wraps it in a clean linen shroud, and places it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock in a garden near the site of crucifixion.”

There are numerous customs, both inside church and out, for those who observe Good Friday, but one I heard about from friends who were born overseas, but that was unfamiliar to a few Christian friends born in the States, is the custom of giving to charity to coincide with this holiday. It could be that this is a local custom, as opposed to a Church-wide rule of observance.

Maybe it’s a stretch, but it would seem that on this Purim/Good Friday, we might ponder this unlikely overlap of remembrance and unite in remembering those who are less fortunate, who are cold, hungry, and needy in ways most of us can’t imagine, all the more so on the holidays.

*The math and logic for this are, as academics say, beyond the scope of this post, but it’s outlined succinctly here.


Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

In the News, On Other Blogs Quiet Forest Hills Sunday

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Anne  |  March 20, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Today is also the first day of Spring, as well as Holy Thursday, with Purim commencing at sundown. These overlaps provide an opportunity to reflect on our mutual hope and respecitve faiths and the renewal of same. Let there be peace, especially as we celebrate these holidays.


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