The first time I saw my rabbi dressed up as Buzz Lightyear I knew I was in the right place. Most adults stared uneasily, not sure what to make of this grown man bounding happily in a bright green and white suit, but I felt right at home. My children were with me at the time and quite naturally declared: “Look, there is rabbi Andrew!” just as they would if they’d seen him at Publix, the park, or up on the Bima. There was no mention of the outfit, I assume because he wore it quite well, quite naturally. I’d step out on a limb and confess he even seemed more comfortable in it than the stiff grown-up jackets he’d have to, on many occasions, wear. This was, after all, Purim, the Jewish holiday that, not only allows, but expects silliness to reign. So it seemed fitting that Ramat Shalom would have a real life Buzz Lightyear headed your way.
Sure, there’s the whole logical story behind it: Purim commemorates how Queen Esther and Mordechai saved the Jews from Haman, the evil minister of the Persian king. On this holiday, costumes are worn and the Megillah (the Book of Esther) is read to recount this tale of survival. Hamantaschen, (also called “Oznei Haman”, or Haman Ears in Hebrew) are the treat of choice. I nibble on my husband’s ear on ocassion, but it pales in comparison to this: tiny triangles of tender, buttery pastry curled up against a dollop of tangy apricot, hearty prunes, or, for the lucky ones, rich melted chocolate.
For my kids Purim is equally important in their repertoire of holidays. I assume they’d have to agree with Rabbi Andrew and say it’s because of the costumes- the opportunity to relive the splendor of Halloween, without having an ominous light to it. Catalogues of costumes are meticulously scanned by my daughter and of course, there will be the mandatory visit or two to the party store to scour through their costume section. It is much leaner than the selection they carry in October, but then again, so are the crowds of shoppers, so I don’t mind going several times to appease my kids.
They look at pictures of witches and fairies and superheroes and eagerly discuss amongst themselves what they are going to be. Then, they both turn to me and their eyes light up, two sets of beautiful almond eyes flanked by swooping long lashes lock on me and I know I am in trouble. Their eyes are pools of irresistible power and when they shine in the light just so, swirling in a sea of butterscotch and they blink blink blink those eyes are powerful weapons and I know, whatever it is they want, I know they will get. They know they’ve got me by the way my body just slows to a stop and I wait. Wait for it. Whatever it is. They smell victory. They are good at this, they know. Years of practice pays off. So they ask me, not if, but what I am going to dress up as? If I weren’t under their spell I’d try to tell them Purim is just for the kids to dress up, but I can’t say that, I won’t. After all, their rabbi knows it’s all about goofy fun and is headed to infinity and beyond, so why shouldn’t I?
Purim Hamantaschen Cookies
From The Jewish Holiday Baker, by Joan Nathan
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or parve margarine, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Filling of choice
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg, orange juice, vanilla, baking powder and salt and beat for one minute. Add the wheat germ and the flour, 1/2 cup at a time at a slow speed. The mixture will start to form a ball. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease 2 cookie sheets.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 1/8-inch thickness. Cut in circles with a 2-inch cookie cutter or the floured rim of a 2-inch glass. Place 1 tablespoon of filling of your choice in the center of the circle. Pinch together 3 corners evenly spaced along the edge of the circle to form a triangular hamantaschen shape. Some of the filling will show in the center. Arrange the cookies on the cookie sheets 1 inch apart.
Bake 1 sheet at a time in the middle rack of the oven for 10-12 minutes until hamantaschen are golden brown.
Fillings can include; nuts, poppy seeds, apricot, strawberry or prune lekvar or jam, chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate.