From the time we are born, our identities begin to evolve. In certain instances however, our identities become fixed over time, especially as they are formed in relationship to siblings. “She’s the smart one”, we think to ourselves. “He’s the one good at sports”. “She’s the one with the special needs; I’m the perfect one”. We often define ourselves in relation to another sibling, especially if parental expectations solidify those identities. Overstressed parents, who may have a child with problems or special needs, might expect another child to be “perfect” or at least more self-sustaining. Such expectations might influence how the child will behave at home, not wanting to further stress his/her overtaxed parents.
Purim is the time on the Jewish calendar to play with identities. We wear masks and costumes and raucously celebrate the story of Esther and Mordechai, where everyone becomes their opposite. It is a wonderful tale of a Queen who, by overcoming her fear of rejection, or punishment, saves the Jewish people with the help of her cousin Mordechai, a tale that mixes humor and solemnity, danger, and drunkenness.
While Purim is a holiday of pure fun, more serious themes underlie all the celebration. Themes of having courage in the face of potential annihilation and changing one’s identity are some of the more serious ideas underlying a holiday that is perfectly made for the imagination of children. The holiday reminds us that whoever we think we are, we can change, especially in the service of a higher purpose, like helping other people.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the way we sometimes change our identity or “mask” depending on the social situation.
CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:
- Are we different at school or with friends than at home?
- How are you and your brother and/or sister different? How are you similar?
- Are there things your brother and/or sister excel at that you don’t try because you think of it as “their thing”?
- What, if any, defined roles do you and each of your siblings play in the family dynamic?
By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses
Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.