This week is one of my favorite Jewish holidays. One of the very best things about Orthodox Judaism is that there are so many holidays and they’re all so different in their observances and traditions. Purim is a particularly fun holiday for children, with costumes and candy galore.
This year, though, as we read the Purim story and prepare our treats for friends, I’m already quite a bit down. Last week was a really rough week for our family and Adar is supposed to be a month in which we are commanded to “increase our joy.” We did have some very good news last week as well. We have secured a rental in our new hometown that’s close to shul. My husband was able to see a good endocrinologist and should be getting a working pump soon, which is something he’d been fighting up here for since last June. Still, we had some bombshell bad news on our conversion progress and then we’re still struggling to sell our house in a buyer’s market.
It’s hard to feel the kind of increase in joy I feel like I’m supposed to feel this Purim.
Re-reading the story of Purim, this year, I feel more connected to Queen Esther. She’s the heroine of the tale, the girl who becomes Queen and uses her influence to save the Jewish people. Yet, even as the story ends, she remains locked in the palace, married to a non-Jew and unable to join her people in their celebrations. She saves her people, but cannot save herself. She is trapped, living between two worlds.
Right now, my family and I are very much living between two very different worlds. On the one side, we have Alaska. Just yesterday afternoon, we were up in Hatcher Pass spending a bright, sunny afternoon high in the mountains watching snowboarders bravely make their way down snowy peaks. All around us is a non-Jewish world. We munched on potato chips because it was about all I could find in the gas station with a kosher symbol. In the meantime, my husband makes periodic trips down to our new home to work out the logistics of our move. There he can attend daily minyan and stand next to our childrens’ teachers. Kosher food is plentiful and less expensive. There are no mountains and life is far less wild and untamed.
It doesn’t help that we’re feeling less connected to our Jewish community up here. Now that our Rabbis know that we’ll be starting over again in our new home, they’re no longer meeting with us or teaching us. There are simply too many other pressing demands on their time. Our children, now both past the age of bnei mitzvah, likewise are now on their own as well. To be clear, I’m not blaming our Rabbis for using their time where it will do the most good. There really just isn’t much we need right now or that they can help us with. Still, it’s hard not to feel adrift through no one’s fault.
“It’s supposed to snow tomorrow,” my husband says.
“Where?” I ask in response, unsure which place he’s looking at the weather for anymore.
Did Queen Esther look out her window at her people celebrating and yearn to be with them? Did she have a window that faced them or was her view focused inward on palace courtyards? Did she live in two places at once or did she ever fully feel at home in the palace?
I know this Adar, I must work harder to increase my joy. In just about 12 weeks, which isn’t long, I will be flying to a new home and starting a new journey and I’d rather not waste my last weeks here in the mountains in sadness.
May you all have a very Happy Purim and see all the hidden joys in your own lives!