By Rachel Goldman Neubauer
Purim, as most of us know, is all about masks. Esther hid her Jewish identity from King Ahashverosh, even after marriage, until revealing herself meant saving lives.
While I love being silly and dressing up in costume, there are certain things about Purim that don’t always sit well with me. Mainly, I dislike the message that it’s sometimes ok to hide who you are. Yes, I understand that in ancient Persia it made sense for Esther to conceal her entire identity for obvious reasons of safety…and I also recognize that, unfortunately, there are still parts of the world where this fact is necessary. For those of us blessed enough to live here in America, though, we clearly don’t live in some form of Shushan with a Haman breathing down our backs and our true identities no longer are things that could put our lives in danger. In fact, hiding ones’ self out of fear, shame, guilt, etc. is the very thing that can either drive someone back into addiction or keep them there. Hiding is the new Haman for alcoholics and for anyone trying to live a life of transparency and rigorous honesty.
Last year, my friend and colleague Shira Freidlin started a new tradition at Beit T’Shuvah for Purim that I think deserves sharing. We still dress up at Beit T’Shuvah, but instead of dressing up as anything that we feel like, we take some part of ourselves that we mask on a normal basis and let that part of us fly during the holiday. I still to this day am someone who almost always appears put together, and sometimes (albeit far less so than, say, seven years ago) that’s because I’m terrified of someone actually seeing that I’m not always together and I’m not perfect. It was quite liberating to show up to work in a Forever Lazy and show the world that I’m not always put together and I don’t have to be. The parts of us that we try to hide from the world are just as much a part of us as the parts we show, and it’s nice to be able to spin a holiday about masking into one that embraces unmasking from the beginning.
We all had a great time last night at our schpiel, both from laughing and embracing our whole selves. I wish everyone a Purim Sameach.