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Why Adults Should Wear a Costume on Purim

March 5, 2020 | by Emuna Braverman

Experience the freedom of stepping out of that carefully manicured version of ourselves and let your raw, unguarded, complicated, flawed self through.

One thing I’ve learned from Purim: You’re never too old to embarrass your children! Even your adult ones.

I used to think it was only teenagers who kept moaning, “You’re not wearing that are you?” But I see that age is really irrelevant. How parents act, what parents say, and especially what we wear has the power to humiliate our children long past the time when it should matter (should it ever?). And no time is this truer than on the holiday of Purim.

I don’t think we cross any lines of taste or modesty but the very fact of our wearing a costume at all seems to be an unending source of embarrassment to all of our children. Even some of our grandchildren may look at us askance!

Nevertheless, despite all the external pressures, my husband and I insist on dressing up for Purim. Not because of childhood memories, not because it’s an excuse to buy or wear a costume, not because my husband’s favorite line from one of his favorite movies (“Start the Revolution Without Me”) is, “I thought this was a costume ball.” We dress up because it helps us get into the spirit of the day.

Just as drinking on Purim helps us pierce the veil of our defenses and see the Almighty’s hand in the world more clearly, so too does wearing a costume. We spend our lives very defended, working so hard not to be vulnerable, not to let anyone in, not to give in to our experiences of the world, and yes even of the Almighty because we are afraid of rejection, pain, emotion…you name it. Somehow, wearing a costume frees us. We are no longer our everyday selves bound by those self-imposed everyday rules. We are someone different, someone who is open to life, to the gifts and challenges the Almighty sends us, to seeing the good in them, to recognizing it’s all a gift.

Once a year we need to step out of that carefully manicured version of ourselves to let our raw, unguarded, complicated, flawed self through. With the aid of a “disguise” (and just a drop of the aforementioned alcohol), we let ourselves experience the Almighty’s love for us, we open ourselves up to seeing behind the metaphorical mask to His workings in our lives. We have a brief recognition that the apparent good and the seeming bad are all one, are all necessary for us to fully realize our potential. We bask in His embrace.

It doesn’t really matter what the costume is – I have a closetful of past years – even a simple costume can be a powerful tool.

And what about when Purim ends, when we remove our costumes and put our suit of armor back on? We hope (and pray) that we take the insights with us, that we will know allow a slight chink in our armor to be revealed, that there will be small crack in our presentation and a glimmer of clarity in our vision. We know intellectually that the Almighty runs the world (my daily, no make that hourly, mantra!). We know that it is all in His benevolent hands. But sometimes our emotions lag behind our intellect.

On Purim, in the safety of our costumes, we experience that powerful emotional recognition. And we also hope (and pray) that moment stays with us, that we can access it when needed – to keep us joyful and connected – even in our boring everyday attire.

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