Thursday, March 16, 2006

Because I'm In My Twenties and It's What You Do

Robbie is Right
...about costumes

The man who never tires of reminding us that he's in his twenties and we are not, has a sharp insight about Purim:

"It's just that we're told we wear costumes because just like God's face was hidden during the Purim story, so are ours... let's think about this for a sec:

We want to celebrate that God decided to leave us to fend for ourselves and turn away from us... Seriously, do we really want to emulate an absent God? Oh, and while we're celebrating the fact that we were deserted, let's get so drunk that we can't tell the difference between good things and evil things, because nothing bad ever happens when you're [drunk]"

I don't know how to answer Robbie, except to remind him that we don't wear masks "because God hid his face." Rather, we wear masks because once upon a time the Jews lived among a community of Catholics who celebrated Carnival with masquerades. It looked cool, so the Jews did it, too.


When you think about it, the whole idea of Carnival is pretty twisted. It's a last chance to indulge for Catholics who are about to enter Lent, a solemn season of fasting and repentance. Sort of as if we partied in the street, Purim-style, immediately before Ellul, or the Asres Yemai Teshuva.

Carnival is additionally the source of such excellent and wholesome traditions as the Palio (forced races of near naked Jews through the streets of Rome) and the annual Mardi-Gras beads-for-breasts exchange on the streets of New Orleans. It's a good thing the Rabbis we rely on are so poor at history: If they knew our Purim practices could be traced back to the source of such unseemly rituals, we'd surely be back in suits and ties at Purim-time.