Funfetti Cheesecake Hamantashen, Pecan Pie Hamantashen, Pulled Brisket Hamantashen!! The list goes on and on and on. I can barely get to my important emails as my inbox is crowded with new and innovative hamantashen recipes! What should I make this year? How can I possibly keep up with all the possibilities? Should I even try? (And does anyone actually eat them? And enjoy them?)

On the one hand, this renewed interest in these traditional Purim treats is exciting. Adventurous cooks across the Jewish world are creating new recipes and trying to add some spice (no pun intended) to this Purim treat that ostensibly represents the hat that the villain of the story, Haman, used to wear.

Keeping the traditional alive is always important and renewed interest is inspiring. I enjoy the culinary challenges of every Jewish holiday and the opportunity to marry the new with the old. But there is a point where enough is enough, where perhaps we are so busy trying out the pop tart hamantashen or the s’mores ones or the red velvet (tofutti) cream cheese ones, that we forget the purpose of the holiday. Or the baking may actually serve to increase our interest…that’s of course the challenge.

Purim is the holiday that reminds us to always look beneath the surface, behind the scenes to recognize and acknowledge that the Almighty is the ultimate puppeteer, that He is pulling all the strings. There are lots of blocks to this realization: We may think it is all up to us. It is our power, our choices, our brains, our efforts that make things happen. We may only look at the surface and not realize the deeper meaning underlying every occurrence. We may fall into the philosophical trap espoused by Haman’s ancestor, Amalek, that everything is coincidence; not understanding that there is no such thing and that everything is, in fact, determined by the Almighty.

Or we may just be distracted, too busy with our cookies and our costumes and our mishloach manos, to focus on the point of the day. Did we listen to every word of the Megillah with concentration or were we too busy planning the meal to come?

Jewish holidays are not magic. They are opportunities that require effort and focus. And because the Almighty wants our choices to be meaningful, because He wants us to see His hand in the world of our own free will and not through duress or coercion or even glaring clarity, He gives us the opportunity to choose incorrectly.

We can make the mistake of thinking it’s all my accomplishment. We can make the mistake of thinking it’s all superficial. We can make the mistake of thinking it’s all whimsy and serendipity and, God forbid, “random”. We can make the mistake of being too distracted to notice. We can make the mistake of being so preoccupied with all the beautiful and creative and (possibly even) delicious hamantashen that we miss the message of the day. And that would be a real waste.

So by all means, let’s get creative. Let’s make egg roll hamantashen and taco hamantashen and balsamic onion hamantashen but let’s not forget the goal. Let’s make sure we take the time to pull back the curtain and see clearly that everything (and I mean everything!) comes from the Almighty. Even this recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel hamantashen that I’m about to try…