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Purim with the family: Eat, drink, and be wary
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Purim with the family: Eat, drink, and be wary

Gabe Kahn is the editor of The New Jersey Jewish News.

Purim is still a few days off, at least as of press time. But fear not: I have been blessed with a prophetic vision of the future, specifically the short-term future, and I’m eager to share the details of my Purim celebration for this coming Saturday night, in the hope that my experience will enhance your own. 

Here’s where I stand at present, before I give you a glimpse of my Purim eve: My wife and I have been hyping up the holiday for more than a week, and I’m satisfied that the kids are sufficiently excited; all the hamantaschen have been baked, and groggers made or purchased;  mishloach manot are assembled and packed, including spares in case we forgot anyone or need to reciprocate in a pinch; and most important, costumes have been selected, fitted, and approved by both the five-year-old boy and three-year-old girl. Let’s do this: 

Saturday night, 6:40 p.m. Shabbos is over and my wife is in the kids’ bedroom helping them put their costumes on before the 7:30 Megillah reading. I try to get a head start on fulfilling one of the most important and underrated mitzvot, and pour myself a fifth of scotch. Before I can partake I hear yelling (child and adult) coming from the other room. I consider helping but ultimately stay where I am, realizing that my adherence to tradition supersedes such trivial, earthly matters.

6:49 p.m. Or not. I’m covered in glitter and gluing bows onto a Donald Duck hat. The three-year-old has called a last-second audible, announcing she wants to be Daisy Duck instead of Minnie Mouse, a costume she has demanded for the last month. We don’t have a Daisy costume, just Donald, so we’re improvising and telling her it’s going well. She looks skeptical.

7:02 p.m. Take two Excedrin to slow the onset of a headache brought on by some of the loudest crying I’ve ever heard (or at least so far that night) after my son’s brand-new Transformers costume won’t fit over his head. Either he’s had a significant growth spurt in the last couple of weeks or we didn’t check the fit as well as we thought. I choose to believe the growth spurt so as to absolve myself of the blame.

7:05 p.m. Crisis averted. He agrees to change into a Superman costume. 

7:06 p.m. Upon closer inspection, it was Supergirl. Crisis back on. 

7:12 p.m. Wife bribes the five-year-old with a Darth Vader costume and multiple Twizzlers. Still plenty of time to get to the synagogue.

7:14 p.m. Still home. It seems one must take an entire Darth Vader costume off in order to properly use the bathroom. 

7:17 p.m. Emergency cleanup. Going to be a rush, but it’s just a short walk.

7:26 p.m. See? No problem. Just outside the synagogue and taking part in the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim, giving charity to those in need on Purim. Several open hands are in my face, and I notice that most of the people don’t seem Jewish. In fact, I think I just handed a dollar to a guy who was just walking by who thought I was giving out cash for some reason.

7:30 p.m. I take my seat just in time, proudly sitting next to my daughter, Dona—err, Daisy Duck. The nice thing about Purim is that everyone understands how much fun this holiday is for kids, so you don’t feel pressured to leave services if they make noise from time to time.

7:31 p.m. Or not. No one here seems to appreciate my daughter’s liberal use of her grogger during the Megillah reading before Haman’s first mention. They were similarly unimpressed with the grinding noise during the blessings before the Megillah. Meanwhile, my son’s leaning sweetly on my wife’s shoulder.

7:33 p.m. Reconsidering choosing this service instead of the family-friendly Megillah reading that was about 10 minutes further away.

7:37 p.m. This arrangement’s not working, at least for me, so I make eye contact with my wife and signal to her that we need to rethink our strategy. She reluctantly accepts my generous offer to let my excitable daughter sit with her, while I take responsibility for my angelic son. The minute the little girl sits down with my wife it’s as if she’s taken a monastic vow of silence. But I don’t complain; Darth’s on the bench with me now, leafing through his children’s Megillah. I can trust this one to behave.

7:39 p.m. Uh oh. My son, again, dressed as the overlord of the Evil Empire, was so startled by the booing and groggers at the first mention of Haman that he reacts as if I threw all his Legos into a dumpster. In the corner of my eye I catch someone shaking his head at me disapprovingly. At the same time, a woman points to my daughter, who is giggling and clapping. I see the woman mouth “She’s precious!” to my wife.

7:40 p.m. Second Haman doesn’t go over any better. Same with third, fourth, and fifth. The man from before stares at me, then points to the door. No way. It’s gonna take a lot more than this for me to bail. 

7:44 p.m. So we’re leaving. My son and I, now bundled up in our winter coats and hats, exit the building, and I somehow find myself fulfilling matanot l’evyonim once again, I’m pretty sure to all the same people. I’m out of change so this time I give the passerby from before a $10 bill.

9:55 p.m. My wife is home, the kids are asleep, and I’m back inside the sanctuary for the 10 p.m. late reading. It’s not how I pictured it, but at least I’ll finally have the chance to perform the central mitzvah of Purim, hearing every word of Megillat Esther with no screaming, crying, distractions, or interruptions. 

10:48 p.m. I open my eyes, startled by the sound of the maintenance crew returning all the Megillahs to the shelves. My neck aches, as if I’ve been sleeping for the last…oh no. 

Chag Purim Sameach!

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