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PURIM MASKS – An Interactive Purim Presentation by
Leon Olenick

On Purim we dress up in costumes and wear masks. The kavanah of this outer appearance is to celebrate the holiday in a fun mode, mimicking the characters of the story. I wish to look under our masks in this presentation, that is to look beneath the outer surface and uncover some of the essence of the characters as we reveal the people in the story. I want to see how their actions relate to us in our life. I wish to look at, and relate them to our own family system, and the stories in our lives. Although this may be painful on some levels, if looked at with good eyes and an opened heart it can release us to be able to celebrate another victory from tyranny. This victory being our own.

On a personal level I wish to celebrate Purim not only as a victory for the Jewish people from tyrants, but look deeper. I see the Purim story as a reminder for us to face, attack and end the abuse of woman. The Purim story is an example of abuse of our holy sisters. Some live in fear every day of their lives, others are forced to “walk on egg shells” so they will not be abused. If you really wish to offer tzedakah on the highest level, donate to an organization that fights and protects these women. Celebrate their freedom from tyrants.

I will begin with a meditation for the strength to open our hearts, and minds and be able to see ourselves and our families clearly, to be able to remove our masks and the klipot – the shells, that they create.

We are taught on Purim we are to give tzedakah. By seeing ourselves and our family system clearly, we are giving on the highest level.

Our cast; King Ahashveros / Vashti / Ester / Mordecai / Hamon.

We are familiar with the Purim story, and I have a sense that we do not have to hear the whole megila, so I want to look at these characters in the context of how their actions within themselves and together reflect on our actions with ourselves and our families of origin, and how this has and is effecting our lives and the lives of those around us today.

I will use the four worlds mode as our way of seeing. As I offer each character in each world and some aspects, (I do not want to fill in all the blanks) please feel free to add specific characteristics to the world, as they may relate to the story or your own situation.

The four worlds are DOING, FEELING, THINKING, BEING

DOING
Ahashveros,
1-He was power hungry.
2-He acted out on whatever he wished to do without regard to anyone but himself.
3-He saw fit to exploit people and abuse them, especially women.
4- He did have and use and DEMAND complete power.

Q- DID ANYONE HAVE AN AHASHVEROS IN THEIR FAMILY?

VASHTI

1- She said NO to degradation and refused to be exploited.
2- She had power, but did not exploit it.
3- She was willing to give her life & lifestyle for her beliefs

ESTER
1-She sacrificed her happiness and life for her people
2-She used her power for the sake of others.

Q- Anyone in your family? i.e. – mom, grandma?

MORDECAI
1- He acted on his beliefs for the good of the community, without having to be the center of power or attention.

WHAT ELSE IN THE DOING WORLD?

Q- Who is this in your family unit?

HAMON
1- Hated, and acted out his hate on others.
2- Wanted people to fear him, and acted as the tyrant to accomplish this.

Q Remind you of anyone?

FEELING

AHASHVEROS
1-Did he have feelings?
2-was he able to feel?

IN OUR FAMILY OF ORIGIN WERE WE TAUGHT TO FEEL OUR EMOTIONS?
WHAT WERE WE TAUGHT TO FEEL?

VASHTI
1-How did she feel being demoralized?
2- How did she feel being abused verbally and physically?

Q DOES THIS FIT ANYONE IN YOUR FAMILY, OR FAMILY OF ORIGIN?

ESTER
1- Was she a martyr?
2- What did she feel when she went to bed with this man?

MORDECAI
1 How did he feel seeing his niece / daughter / wife? / With this hateful man?

Q- Moms and dads of kids who are married, any comments?

HAMON
1- Did he have feelings?
2- Was he able to feel?

Q- Do you know a Hamon? Maybe a BOSS who killed your spirit?

THINKING

AHASHVEROS
1-Was he really smart, and did he scheme to retain his power?
2-Was he so influential that he did not to think/
3-Did he think abuse of others was acceptable?

Q- WHO DO WE KNOW OR GREW UP LIKE THAT? WHAT THOUGHTS WENT THROUGH HIS MIND?

VASHTI
1- Did she know she would be killed and thought this better than her lifestyle?
2- What were her thoughts prior to her decision?

Q- Do we know anyone who thought there is NO way out of a bad situation?

ESTER-
1- Where in her mind did she place her thoughts and emotions?
2- What did she know that she did not reveal?

Q- Who is Ester in our lives?

MORDECAI
1-He was potrayed as always thinking, maybe too much
2-Did he think so much that he could not fit into society?

Q-DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO PONDERS OR ANALYZES TOO MUCH?

HAMON
1- Can a person’s evil thoughts and hate dictate their lives? And eventually risk the lives of their families?
2- Can we be connected so much to the yetza hara – the dark side. that we think we are doing right?

BEING

AHASHVEROS
Did the need for power go so deep within his soul that he lost his God energy as well as all other feelings and respect for himself and the people in the kingdom?
Was he blinded to the Holy One by power?

Q- Are we taught, in order to make our way in this world, to be obsessed by all issues, such as education, power, money, beauty, etc. excluding the sacred.

VASHTI
Did her inner soul need peace and respect so deeply that her own life was secondary? Did she give up living in order to be with God?

Q- How do we obtain and maintain inner peace in time of stress?
How do we measure life and quality of life?

ESTER
Was she able to go into herself with meditation and prayer enough to maintain some degree of self respect and stay in touch with the Holy One, in spite of her situation and the sacrifices she has made?
Was she depressed and would she recognize depression, if she was?

Q- Did our family of origin lash out at us, or other family members? Do we lash out at others in order to maintain our own sanity when we feel life is not fair?
Do we recognize our “ mitzrayims” – our narrow spaces, and try to deal with them?

MORDACHI
Did he reason and analyze all matters so deeply that he lost spontaneity and was out of touch with reality? (Seeing Ester in bondage)
Did he hide his emotions? Did he lose touch with God?

Q- Are we, or were we, or do we teach to hide our emotions rather than face them. ?
Is this what was in our family of origin?

HAMoN
Did his yetza hara overtake him so deeply that he pushed away all else. If so, how could he have had feelings for his wife and family, or did he have feelings because they eventually were killed.

Q- How do we confront meanness in people without allowing it to emotionally KILL us?
Were we taught if someone is mean and nasty, to be mean and nasty back rather that trying to help them? In the face of this kind of energy, can we transcend to a God space – and in fact, “disarm” the meanness in others – can we bless them?

I would like to close by asking all of us to see the abuse that surrounds our lives. What do we allow ourselves and each other to do in the name of not getting involved or not rocking the boat? What do we say to our parents, grandparents, spouses, significant others, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters that will RELEASE them and us from an unhealthy way of life?

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