Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Happy Pur-o-ween

So, the other day, the kids were asking, “Right, Halloween is just like Purim, only Jewish?” “Right,” I replied, and this is what I told them:

“Once, long ago in Shushan, there was a King named Achashveros who loved throwing costume parties. One year, he said to his wife, Queen Vashti, ‘I want you to wear this Mutant Ninja Turtle costume.”

“’No way,’ replied Vashti. ‘That is so last decade. The only thing worse would be to dress up like a Power Ranger. Echhh!’

“The king didn’t say anything, since he was himself planning to come as Red Ranger this year. Instead, he banished Vashti from the palace and sent her to work in a distant Toys R Us store at the Shushan Super Savers Mall, selling costumes for the rest of her life.

“Now, the King couldn’t show up to his own party without a date, so he put out a call throughout the city for a new Queen. The judging would be based on the most inventive costume.

“Meanwhile, over in the Jewish Quarter, a young woman named Esther was reading the Friday papers. ‘Uncle Moti,’ she called out suddenly. ‘Look at this, I could be the Queen!’

“Her uncle was excited. ‘You can borrow my sack cloth and ashes costume. I wear it every year!’

“‘No,’ replied Esther. ‘I have a better idea. I”ll go as…a...queen! I have a funny feeling that little Jewish girls of the future are all going to want to dress up to be Queen Esther.’

“Arriving at the palace, the judges were so taken by her chutzpah that she was crowned the winner on the spot and taken to meet the King.

“At about the same time, the King’s Chief of Staff, the wicked Haman, was riding around town as he always did dressed up in his Batman costume. He was in charge of the pre-party ritual of collecting candy from every citizen of Shushan and giving it all to the king. As his Batmobile arrived at Moti and Esther’s house, Moti refused to give Haman any candy.

“Infuriated, Haman declared that from this moment forward, Moti and his people would have to give five times as much candy as ordinary citizens of Shushan. Unfortunately, that meant us, the Jews. Haman worked up a decree and got the King to stamp it with his secret decoder ring. Fortunately, Esther had a plan.

“The annual costume party was held, and at the end, it was time to count up all the candy each member of the royal house had received. Esther invited Haman to come into her room. She spread all her candy out on the bed and told Haman that they should swap candy bars while lying down together. Haman, spying a Snickers bar he really wanted, readily agreed.

“At just that moment, the King burst in. Seeing Haman lying on the bed sharing candy bars with the Queen, he banished him to the same Toys R Us he sent his former wife Vashti.

“Esther revealed the rest of Haman’s evil plot to destroy her people, but the King threw his hands in the air and said, ‘My hands are tied.’ Esther, resisting the temptation to blurt out ‘No they’re not,’ demonstrated her royal smarts and proposed that the decree not be repealed but modified.

“‘Instead of the people giving candy to the palace, why don’t we distribute candy to the people,’ she wisely suggested. ‘They would all dress up and come to the front gate of the palace, then we would give them candy based on how clever their costumes were. And the Jews would get five times as much candy as everyone else.’

“‘Splendid idea,’ declared the King. And so, on the 25th day of the month of Cheshvan, which corresponds to the 31st day of the month of October, 1,385,653 pieces of candy were given out to the people of the city. However, the Jews received 5,792,884 pieces.

“And that, you see, is how the Jewish holiday of Halloween came to be. Now, goodnight kids. And goodnight moon…hmm, there’s another idea…”

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