THE BOOK OF ESTHER
Know the story well. Esther is a very short story that can be read in 20 minutes or less. Review it two or three times so that you will be familiar with the storyline when you read it together with your kids.
The family that studies together stays together. Beginning 3-4 weeks before Purim, set aside two nights a week to study the Megillah with your kids. There are many good books available about Purim which contain commentary and explanation of the Megillah. Visit a Jewish bookstore and, depending on your children's ages, choose those books which can serve as references at your study sessions. Also, buy each of your children their own Megillah to study. When Purim arrives this will also be the Megillah they take to synagogue with them. The "ArtScroll Youth Megillah" is an excellent choice for this (www.artscroll.com).
On Purim day, we send Mishloach Manot -- gifts of food to friends. Here's how to get your child excited and involved in the mitzvah:
1) Make sure every child gets to include his friends, neighbors, teachers or classmates on the family Mishloach Manot list. You may also want to include some strangers on your list. If there are any elderly people who live alone in your neighborhood, this is a wonderful way to add some joy to their lives. Also, if there are Russian immigrant families in your area, this is a great way to reach out and welcome them to the Jewish community.
2) The contents. Make a list of 10 possible items to be included in your Mishloach Manot and allow each child to choose one. By first compiling a master list you can control issues such as cost and nutritional value. Left to their own devices, children will inevitably choose candy, candy, and more candy to fill the Mishloach Manot.
3) Baking. Why not include homemade Hamantashen in your Mishloach Manot? Of course there are many reasons why not, but occasionally it's worth the mess. You can get the whole family involved in the baking. Homemade is better for another reason: Cost. It's better to spend less on fancy Mishloach Manot and use the extra money for gifts to the poor.
4) The container. When it comes to Mishloach Manot, there is no end to the creative possibilities. Try using:
- a brown lunch bag, which kids can decorate
- clear plastic bags tied with colored ribbon, or
- paper plates wrapped in colored cellophane paper
You can include a standardized note from your family to the recipients. Make photocopies of the note and have the kids decorate them.
5) Mishloach Manot packing party. This can be planned for a Sunday afternoon before Purim or on the night of Purim when the family returns from hearing the Megillah.
6) Delivery. On Purim afternoon, get all the kids dressed in their costumes and devote a couple of hours to driving around and delivering your Mishloach Manot. Don't forget to bring the camera. You're bound to see some amazing costumes along the way.
1) You receive lots of mail requests for Jewish causes that provide assistance for poor families, orphans, immigrants, Israeli hospitals and the like. Put some of these aside and save them for Purim. Spend an hour with your kids discussing what the various causes are all about, writing the checks and mailing them. Yes, children of all ages can be cruel and selfish, but they also have hearts of gold. Help them discover their hearts.
2) The Purim Pushke (charity box). A month before Purim, put a can or jar in a special place in the kitchen. Ask everyone in the family (and guests, too) to deposit some loose change on a daily basis. A week or so before Purim, add up the money, write a check and send it to an organization that distributes money to needy families on Purim. Consider it "Jewish sensitivity training."
THE PURIM MEAL
Don't just eat-and-drink. Make it the meal a fun educational experience as well.
Try making up a "Purim trivia game." Based on your studies prior to Purim, make a list of questions. Give everyone at your meal a chance to answer questions, with correct (or close to correct) answers getting a prize. Prizes can include Purim stickers, party favors, candy, or an extra shot of vodka.
Some suggested questions:
- How many provinces did Achashverosh rule over?
- Esther had another name, what was it?
- Which of the Jewish tribes was Mordechai from?
- How many sons did Haman have?
- Who was queen of Persia before Esther?
- Who plotted to assassinate King Achashverosh?
- What did Esther send to Mordecai when he was wearing sackcloth?
- Who had a problem falling asleep?
- Achashverosh offered Esther half the kingdom. What did she ask for?
- What was Haman's wife's name?
From "One Hour Purim Primer," by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf. www.leviathanpress.com