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Study and Theory/

Purim is a Secular Holiday

Beit Alfa, 1964

“Today is Purim, tomorrow is a weekday”.

So go the lyrics of the song; however, it is not up-to-date, because when Purim falls on a Friday and the following day is Shabbat, it too is brightened by the radiance of a holiday, all the more so when a children’s holiday falls on it. [...] But why fuss over details when our days are weekdays – tomorrow as yesterday, and the day before as the day after tomorrow, and the holidays and occasions serve to make them more colorful.
As a secular community that since its establishment has deliberately and consciously distanced itself from any Jewish religious tradition, the kibbutz has disengaged itself from the patterns of the traditional holidays, as observed for many generations by European Jewry.
Attempts have and still are being made to create new contemporary, parochial patterns. Attempts have been made, sometimes ludicrous, to collect those pieces of tradition that are not strictly religious, and give them a pioneering Zionistic dimension and a semblance of the socialist farming experience, and use them to concoct a kibbutz cultural creation. But the dish, the holiday, lacks the feeling of personal, emotional identification characteristic of the religious communities. The result is holidays virtually devoid of any real joy and festivity, and the success of which depends on the talents of the [kibbutz] culture committee. Children’s holidays that lack any deeper meaning for adults, usually leave the audience passive and bored.
The exceptions to the rule are Purim and Independence Day. However, the latter too is gradually declining.


Purim is essentially a secular holiday, out of character with the nature of the Jewish holidays. The Book of Esther lacks a clear religious imprint; the name of G-d does not appear in it even once, and the names of its heroes are Persian, originating with the Acadian gods.

The story itself is typical of life in a royal court, in which chicanery and intrigues play a major role. The image of Esther as a righteous woman is rather dubious, and the heroism of Mordechai is a far cry from that of classic national heroes such as the Maccabees. Even the custom of eating Haman’s ears sounds quite barbaric...

Whereas the rest of the Jewish holidays are restrained and somber, in Purim release and joyfulness are both permitted and desired, and jolly costumes are compulsory (despite the prohibition: a woman shall not wear men’s clothing, and vice versa...).

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