Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's A Jewtheran To Do?

What’s a Jewtheran to do?
Current mood: confused
Category: Religion and Philosophy

This doesn’t happen often, but since Easter is so early this year, the colliding trains of Good Friday and Purim are in place for a big ol’ religious smackdown.

Good Friday is the most solemn and reflective of the Christian holy days, ya know, with all that Jesus dying on the cross, pre-crucifixion torture, temple curtains tearing in half jazz, the earth turning dark and Christians repentently exiting their houses of worship in silence and sadness, even though we sort of know how the story ultimately plays out 3 days later, with glorious jubilation. So Good Friday is really more just observation than "I wonder if He’ll stay THIS year." Come on, it’s Jesus!

Easter Sunday soon arrives and we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection in church by replacing the black altar paraments with regenerative white, and the "Allelujah’s" are once again allowed to be uttered in the sanctuary. "He is Risen, indeed!" Yay, Jesus! Secularly, we celebrate with the return of tacky pastel colors and obnoxious hats to our wardrobes and a proliferation of candy and dye-colored hard boiled eggs with green yolks in our baskets. Most people traditionally then consume ham, though that pig don’t fly in our Jewtheran family, where we have beef brisket.

Landing on the same day this spring is Purim, one of the more festive Jewish holy days. Exuberance IN the synagogue is not only acceptable but encouraged! Oy!
From Wikipedia, for those not in the know.....

The holiday of Purim has been held in high esteem by Judaism at all times; some have held that when all the prophetical and hagiographical works are forgotten, the Book of Esther will still be remembered, and, accordingly, the Feast of Purim will continue to be observed (Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1/5a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Megilla).

Like Chanukkah, Purim has more of a national than a religious character, and its status as a holiday is on a lesser level than those days ordained holy by the Torah. Accordingly, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim, though in certain places restrictions have been imposed on work (Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Chayim, 696). A special prayer ("Al ha-Nissim"—"For the Miracles") is inserted into the Amidah during evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as is included in the Birkat Hamazon ("Grace after Meals.")

The four main mitzvot of the day are:

  1. Listening to the public reading, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Esther in the evening and again in the following morning (k’riat megilla)
  2. Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot)
  3. Giving charity to the poor (matanot la’evyonim)
  4. Eating a festive meal (se..udah)
There you have it. Did I mention the chief traditional Purim beverage to be consumed is wine? Well, we can scrtch that. My goodness, they even give out these, eerily resembling Easter baskets, i.e. the above photo.

So the question I solemly reflect on Christ’s death and pray for the forgiveness of my sins or sneak away to the synagogue to dance in the aisles and stuff my face? A vexing conundrum for any Lutheran Jew, for sure.

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