Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yay! It's Purim!

Sorry this is so long...I'm excited today. Maybe it's the decadron that I have to start taking today to prevent allergic problems from the chemo tomorrow...

I went to the Hadassah luncheon today wearing my short, blond wig and make-up. I couldn't believe the difference I felt between how I felt today vs when I went to the women's program with Chabad and wore a scarf. I felt so comfortable with a wig on - like I didn't want to hide. The scarf over the bald head makes me feel like I'm advertising that I'm going through chemo. This wig is more comfortable than my other one because it is short and they gave me something to wear under it to prevent itching. It's also fun and funny. My friends and family get a big smile on their faces when they see me in it. Jason though, seems to have a hard time with so many changes and said he likes the hats better...so I wonder whether it would be hard also for my clients to see me in it... (Hey, therapist friends, you can give me input privately here or through my email address if you have 2 cents).

I was exhausted when I got home around 3:30pm after leaving the house at 8:30am for the port draw and then over to acupuncture for the treatment prior to tomorrow's chemo and then to Lee's to pick her up and then to someone else who needed a ride and then over to Aptos for the luncheon and back. But even though I was tired, I had to go over to Bailly's to say "Hi" and "Happy Purim" and show her the wig on before going home. She was so happy to see it in person. I won't be able to attend her Purim party today with all the kids/germs there.

The rabbi read me the (whole) megillah which he read very quickly in Hebrew (took 20 minutes) while I read the story to myself in English. It's a mitzvah to hear it read and to give Tzedakah and to give shalach munis or manot (gifts of food to friends). I was very grateful that Bailly also hadn't heard the megillah read yet either because I probably wouldn't have let him read it only to me (do I really merit having a special private reading?) Plus, I would never have remembered to read it this year on my own since, well, you know, my mind is on other things...and I really feel badly that I've missed a lot of the holidays this year and may be recovering from my last chemo come Passover.

Normally, Aimee and I would be making gift bags of food today and delivering them to friends. We had all these Jewish calendars that I'd saved with beautiful artwork on them. Aimee would cut out the artwork and glue them to the gift bags. It was fun. I also make kreplach (yum - Jewish potstickers) in honor of the secret that was kept hidden and then revealed. There were many secrets that were revealed through the Purim event and the most well known secret was Esther's true identity - it was kept secret from her husband, the king, until the final moment when she revealed herself (at the risk of death) to save her people. It's a wonderful holiday and a perfect story for empowering girls.

After reading the megillat Esther, I was struck by the fact of how symbolic and poignant it is that I'm wearing a short, blond wig today when I am normally a person who wears dark, long hair. The Purim story is so about the miracle of how everything was turned upside down and the very person (Haman) who was poised to kill all the Jews ended up hung on the gallows he built for Esther's uncle/husband, Mordecai, who was led through the city on a horse by Haman to honor him (Haman's idea because he thought the honor was going to be his own).

I was also struck by many other things in the story that I am struck by every year, including Esther's bravery and how powerful the Jewish people can be when they actually come together and how hard it must have been to fast for 3 days. But this time reading a line about Haman struck me differently due to the predicament I'm in this year. He was so happy that he was the right hand man of the king, and so happy that he was invited to a party by Esther where he was the only one invited along with the king. But he couldn't be happy because that darn Mordechai wouldn't bow down to him. So he built a gallows for that darn Mordechai. I thought about how often (in a depression) I have only focused on that one negative thing in life when all else was positive! Depression and negativity could be the death of someone! Building a gallows for that bitterness may get you hung yourself! So how fascinating that I am wearing a short, blond wig today and not my usual long, dark hair - everything is topsy, turvy on Purim.

Anyway Purim's a great holiday for children because there are carnivals and dress up. It's very much celebrated like Halloween in Israel where everyone dresses up but not in ghoulish attire and not to collect candy from others but to give gifts of food to others. The little children tend to want to dress up like Mordecai and Queen Esther, the heroes of the story. Adults dress in silly costumes. (So I feel like I'm dressing up for Purim today with the wig and the make-up!) In fact the day is supposed to be very happy and joyful - and the whole month of Adar is like that (the 12th month on the Jewish calendar) and we increase in joy leading up to the liberation of Passover.

I loved the Hadassah luncheon. Hadassah was Esther's Hebrew name. Here in S.Cruz, the Hadassah chapter created a tradition to have a luncheon on Purim. The speaker was a teacher of mine once at UCSC and he said something today that he called his mantra and it touched me deeply because it was a mirror of my own idea. "You can't say you're an educated person if you don't know anything about Jewish history, culture and experience." I would add, Jewish religion to that mix since it's the foundation of all the other Western religions. Baumgarten, today's speaker, gets 50/50 Jews and non-Jews in his Jewish Study classes up at UCSC. Percentage-wise, UCSC has the most Jews of any UC campus. My question to him was, "How are the Jewish students doing with the anti-Zionist sentiment on campus?" He didn't seem to be worried about resilient students who need to hear this stuff early because they'll hear it later. I didn't agree with that...but that's another megillah.

I was so happy this year when Aimee studied the ancient Hebrews in her sociology class (and aced the test). I always wondered why no one wanted to teach and learn about the ancient Hebrews and in fact why people don't want to teach and learn Hebrew itself so they would know how to read the Good Book and know the religion that was the foundation for the other ones.

Jason's school is the top charter school in the country and they have a large number of Jewish students but they are all big on learning Latin and they also offer Chinese. My thought has always been, "why not Hebrew? Am I the only one who sees it's value?" Is the Latin and Greek culture and the Arthurian legends really so worthwhile to learn about? I know people love mythology...but what did the Roman's do but crucify Jews and others...sorry I'm so on a soapbox today but I've got an audience and of course you can put your 2 cents in here too.

Anyway I was glad to hear something that resonated with me come out of Baumgarten's mouth today. Happy Purim to you all and BTW, I think that it's not out of the blue that the stock market went up today. It's supposed to be a very happy day!

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