An Antidote for an Upside Down World
March 22, 2024
By Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein

When they were very little, our children loved the book “Silly Sally” by Audrey Wood which told the story of an eccentric woman who “went to town walking backward, and upside down.”  Along the way, she encounters different equally eccentric animals – a pig who dances a jig, a loon who plays a tune, etc., who join her as she makes her way in the world.  This strange crew of fellow travelers eventually meet up with Neddy Buttercup, the inverse of Silly Sally, who “walks forward, right side up,” and who helps restore everyone else to more comfortable states.

Without realizing it, the book perfectly encapsulates the essence of Purim! Sometimes called Yom Hafuch, or opposite day, the holiday we celebrate beginning tomorrow night through Sunday (March 23-24), is a permanent reminder of when Haman’s plot to destroy us thousands of years ago, was transformed by Esther and Mordecai into a day of celebration.

On Purim, we all become Silly Sally, approaching life in the opposite way we normally would.  This can be scary, but also fun! For the 24 hours of the holiday, we get to play in a way many of us have not done since we were children.

We do this as an antidote to the horrors and tragedies we often encounter in the world around us. After all, events like those we experienced on October 7th, May 14th, and the entirety of the pandemic, can put us off balance, making it difficult for us to move forward.  Only by turning this sense of disorientation into a game, can we begin to plot a way forward.

Just like Wood’s book, Purim is often viewed as just for kids.  But in actuality, the messages of both the book and the holiday are really for adults.  How many of us have tremendous anxiety about what we have just weathered, and about the fraught future that lies ahead? As we read every year on Passover, “in every generation they tried to kill us, and in every generation, God comes to our rescue.”

If you have been feeling like you have been “walking backward, and upside down” find a local synagogue this weekend and come to one of the many spiels, Purim plays, that will be occurring on Saturday night, or Sunday during the day.  I am partial to “The Megillah According to Barbie” at my Congregation, Shir Shalom, where we retell the story of Esther through the eyes of the hit movie.  But there are many great ones around town.  I very much encourage you to go out, put on a costume, and refuse to let the Hamans of the world spoil our fun.

 

 

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein is the spiritual leader at Congregation Shir Shalom.

 

 

 

 

An Antidote for an Upside Down World - Jewish Thought of the week 2022