By: Rabbi Zvi Gluck
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Over the years I have put together more than a few columns trying to get people to realize that while Purim is filled with fun and festivities, for some it is a day that presents tremendous challenges with potentially life-altering consequences. As the father of three teenagers with another one swiftly approaching those foundational years as well, I have been viewing Purim through a different prism over the past several years. I am taking the liberty of addressing my pre-Purim message to my own children, as well as yours, ensuring that all our kids are adequately prepared to celebrate this joyous holiday in a healthy and positive way.
To my wonderful children,
It wasn’t all that long ago that Purim was that long-awaited day where you got to dress up in costume, enjoyed the whirlwind of activity with your friends and relatives and got to indulge in a lot more candy than usual. But now as you stand poised on the cusp of adulthood, there are other facets to Purim as well, such as understanding the nissim that took place all those years ago in Shushan and appreciating the inherent mitzvos of a day that has tremendous spiritual power and meaning. But growing up as you are in a world filled with unprecedented challenges, you are no doubt aware that for some, Purim is anything less than happy.
I am sure you appreciate the symbolism of dressing in costume on Purim. More than just an opportunity to show off your creativity, dressing up symbolizes the hidden nature of the Purim miracle, evidenced by the fact that Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s name appears nowhere in Megillas Esther. While you may be looking forward to the opportunity to don a different persona on Purim, I have no doubt that you probably know people who walk around all year long pretending to be something they aren’t. They are the people who on the surface look like everyone else, but if you take the time to get to know them, you realize that hidden underneath their outward appearance are endless pools of pain and torment. It is extremely sobering to realize that are kids out there whose biggest worries go far beyond the day-to-day stresses of school, tests, and social pressures and that there are plenty of adults who suffer daily, whose outward appearance of normalcy is a costume, worn to hide their inner turmoil.
As you think about the friends you want to connect with on Purim, I would also ask you to take a minute and contemplate those you know who might be spending their day waiting for the doorbell to ring, hoping against hope that someone cared enough to make mishloach manos for them. Look deeply into your hearts and think whose soul really needs gladdening on Purim, who might be alone and who has nowhere to go for their seuda. It could be a classmate, someone who lives nearby or even an older person you see in shul - take the time to reach out to them and to share the simcha of the day. Even a minor investment of time on your part can have a huge effect on someone else’s life in ways that go beyond anything you can ever imagine.
It is possible that you might end up someplace on Purim where alcohol is being served, be it at someone’s house, at a chagiga or maybe even in shul and don’t be embarrassed to say politely but firmly “no thank you.” Becoming an adult is all about personal responsibility and making the right decisions instead of just blindly following the herd and sometimes even grownups lose sight of just how important it is to respect the wishes of others and not to push anyone to drink, even under the guise of a mitzvah. No one can ever know what is going on in someone’s life and if they have worked hard for months to kick an addictive habit, and as you make your way to adulthood it is important to remember that true simcha comes from your heart and not from alcohol or other substances.
In a similar vein, should you find yourself at a place where things are spinning out of hand, be it a party or someone’s home, don’t be embarrassed to excuse yourself and head for the door, because there is no reason to spend one of the holiest days of the year at a gathering that is beneath your status as a ben or bas melech. Even if the hours is late, call a trusted adult to take you home - I promise you, like Mommy and me, they will be happy to comply, no questions asked, because we all know the horror stories of lives that were cut short when someone who had been drinking on Purim got into their car and started driving, not realizing that they were in no condition to get behind the wheel.
Baruch Hashem, we have seen that by standing up for things that matter we have been able to make positive changes in our communities over the years and, thankfully, activities such as getting drunk on Purim that were once taken for granted as part of life are falling slowly by the wayside. While Purim might be the issue that has me putting pen to paper right now,
the truth is that tough situations can arise any day of the year, and time and time again you will find yourselves having to muster the strength make the right decisions, which may not necessarily be the popular ones. Right now, your day to day lives may be focused on high school and seminary, but the truth is that your chinuch isn’t as much about getting good grades as it is on preparing you for the tests of real life.
Know that Mommy and I are here for you for whatever you need, not just on Purim but every day of the year. We know we can have faith in you to do the right thing and that one day in the not-too distant future, you will be having these discussions with your own kids.
All my love,
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