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A Lesson from Purim on the Importance of Laughter

Nadia Siritsky-tnIn the book of Deuteronomy, it is written that the Holy One will “astir panim” and go into hiding. Our sages tell us that the word “astir” (I will hide) is related to the word “Esther” and that this references the book of Esther. If ever there was a holiday that seemed devoid of holiness, it might be Purim. We are commanded to drink, play games, poke fun at authority figures and dress up in masks and costumes.

Yet, our Talmudic sages also teach “Yom Kippurim, Yom Ke-Purim” which means that Yom Kippur is like Purim. It is when we are able to laugh at ourselves that we are able to transcend ourselves and the limitations that keep us from reaching the holiness that we seek. Life may cause each of us to wear masks at different times, but beneath every role and label, is that same eternal spark of holiness that resides in every person.

This material world is filled with illusions that translate into very real and very unfortunate outcomes. The hierarchies of this world, the socio-economic inequalities and the health disparities that afflict certain minority groups at disproportionate levels are just a few unfortunate examples of the countless ways in which our inherent equal standing, as children of one human family, has been distorted by the way we live in this world.

The story of Esther highlights the human frailties of those in power, and reminds us that no counsel or policy should ever go unquestioned. We are all imperfect, and the holiday of Purim invites us to think beyond the masks or blinders that we each wear. The holiday of Purim also reminds us that goodness is stronger than evil, and that love of our neighbor will ultimately win out over hatred and intolerance. Most importantly, when it seems like holiness is hidden, we are called to look deeper until we can recognize that spark and help it to shine brightly in our world.

Recently, patients, families and staff at Jewish Hospital, had an opportunity to learn about Purim and to celebrate together. This was also a chance for staff to come together to laugh and be re-centered in the positive energy that needs to guide every human interaction. As caregivers, it is vitally important to take time to recharge, in order to ensure that we can continue to provide compassionate care for those we serve.

Thanks to the generosity of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, hundreds of delicious hamentashen were tasted by staff. As the attached picture illustrates, our CEO, Ruth Brinkley, and our COO, Lisa Shannon, joined with our hospital president, Joe Gilene and the senior leadership of Jewish Hospital, to present a Purim Shpiel for staff, and even play some games at a Purim carnival that was held in the hospital lobby.

Part of the lesson that Purim teaches is the importance of laughter to help us to keep everything in balance. When we take ourselves too seriously, we can lose sight of what really matters. Being able to experience our humanity is an important component of ensuring that we can remain compassionate and live with integrity.

Purim and Yom Kippur are two important anchors in the way we live, throughout the year, that can help us to retain a valuable perspective. May we find laughter and forgiveness every day, and may this guide all of our relationships, so that we can bring healing and solace to this still broken world.

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