About two months before Purim, curious noises fill our home. There's a lot of "You know it, baby," said in a confident,raspy voice. And "Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!"--always uttered fast, like a racing train. Invariably, these are followedby a lot of giggling. Several years ago my husband, Phillip, began telling our children a really snappy version of atraditional favorite, the Purim story. Instead of that stilted tale often seen in Hebrew school books ("I must get to theking," Esther said. "For I cannot let Haman fulfill his evil plans."), Phil's account has Vashti employed at the ShushanBar & Grill (she returns to her old job after losing the king's favor), Haman telling his unwitting admirers, "You know it,baby!" when they heap praise upon him, and King Ahashverosh's eyes bulging out to Mexico and back when hecatches sight of the lovely Esther. He gasps, then calls: "Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!"
My children can't get enough of it. They giggle, they scream with pleasure. They literally fall on the floor with laughter.And at the end of the story they always say the same thing: "Tell it again!" If only it could be that way for everyone.Instead, many anticipate a little catnap during the reading of the megillah, the Scroll of Esther, or maybe bring along apaperback to sneak inside. After all, haven't we told the same story year after year after year? Yes, but familiar doesnot have to mean stale. In fact, all it takes it a little preparation to hearing the story of Purim new, fun andmeaningful again for you and your family.
Why They Did What They Did
We all know that Esther was pretty and Mordechai brave and Haman evil. But in fact, a number of interesting textsexist which explore the characters of these famous figures, based on historical information. Before listening to themegillah, do your research. You can start with the Encyclopedia Judaica, continue at your synagogue or templelibrary, and even look into sites on the Web. Or, invite family members to offer their own insight as to why Hamanhated the Jews, or why Esther was so daring.
Instead of taking the familiar route and hearing the megillah at your congregation (there is no halachic or religiouslylegal obligation to hear it as part of a minyan or quorum of ten), ask your children to present the story as a father ormother reads the text. The children can act out the megillah, as a dramatic play starring themselves (remember, it onlytakes about 50 minutes to read the entire story), or using favorite toys like dinosaurs and plastic bugs, Barbie dolls andtoy soldiers. Have children create their own costumes (napkins colored with felt pens make lovely temporary attire) fortheir little puppets. Or invite boys and girls to make their own paper dolls of Mordechai, Esther and Haman.
The Write Stuff
Since there's no halachic admonition against writing on Purim for all the branches of Judaism, this is a great time tohave your children color and draw their own version of the story. But don't just give them paper and crayons. Instead,begin an adventure. Find a blank book and write a few lines that will inspire art: This is what the land of Shushanlooked like: Here is Queen Esther looking out her window. She sees... Here is Haman as sits at his favorite chair,considering what to do with the Jews. Here is King Ahashverosh before he became ruler of Shushan.
To make it more fun, add things like a telegram Haman sends to his rotten associates to warn them that his plans maygo astray. Draw the design of a blank telegram in the book, and let children write the copy. Or tape one end of a pieceof paper to a page, so that it can be lifted and a design drawn underneath (perhaps the king gave Esther a present whenthey married? What would it be?). Or, draw a few scribbles and ask children to make them into anything having to dowith Purim. You can include some stickers and a new pack of washable markers with this interactive book, which willkeep your child happy and entertained for hours.
Paper-Bag Dramatics: A New Twist
Prepare one small bag for every family member. Inside each place an odd assortment of about 10 items you can findaround the house. Examples can include an orange or apple, a pencil, an envelope, a rubber band, a pair of socks, atube of lipstick, a box of crayons, a can of tuna, pieces of pasta. Then have each person briefly tell the Purim storyusing the items. There are no rules, so a pair of socks could represent Ahashverosh, or a sock could simply be histhrone and viewers would have to imagine the king.
Have your entire family imagine they are putting on a film version of the story of Purim. Find each person's strong pointor interest and put it to use. The pianist in the family should create some music. The fashion lover should designcostumes, either with illustrations or clothes from around the house (or better yet, shop at your favorite thrift shop forsome fun finds). The budding chef can research what Esther and Mordechai might have eaten, then prepare a mealaccordingly. Each person can present his findings at the Purim dinner, or maybe you'll even be daring enough to actuallyscript, and act out, your own Purim story on video.