The Purim story and mitzvot [obligations] associated with it provide a rich source of messages and concepts. Here are only a few that may be useful in family or classroom discussion. Some are more suitable for older ages - although one should never underestimate the younger set, where some topics can still be discussed in more simple, basic terms. For more background and ideas, be sure to also look over our "Worthwhile Information & Tidbits" section. Some of our suggested peulot [activities] also dovetail well with ideas below.

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    a group of kids with silly masks A chag that says we need looniness and laughter
    in our lives too

    a serious man holding up a paper with a smiley face in front of his own face A reminder of silliness to help keep us from
    becoming pretentious.

    Be happy, masquerade, spoof and shpiel

    Purim helps bring us a bit of re-balancing. One might look at it as a pretty smart move that we have this wonderful chag that has so much looniness attached to it. There is a tradition of spoofing, nutty and nonsensical shpiels (skits and the like), good-natured pranks, hoaxes (like in news outlets, similar to April Fool's Day) and playful parodies. Some communities have even appointed a mock rabbi from the new moon (start of Adar) up to the 14th of Adar (Purim). As one might guess, he was expected to behave in a very silly and ridiculous manner.

    In this light, one might see in such approved and customary actions a message of not turning something serious and important (like teachings, obligations and traditions) into an extreme of unthinking idolatry. We should remember to question and to be critical thinkers. Indeed, the old adage of 'if one has two Jews, the result is three synagogues' might be looked upon as a humorous testament to this view. Such Purim customs remind us to avoid slipping into being pretentious or sanctimonious.

    Masquerading allows one to be someone else for the day :). In real life, every person has many 'faces', facets and roles, even from very young. Like one is not exactly the same person with one's chevre (pals) as one may be with one's mother, the teacher, the bus driver, etc. Further, there are good and evil tendencies in all of us - which in Hebrew is called yetzer tov ve-yetzer ra - and we are given free will. Our choices and actions - including who and how we choose to be, and the consequences - truly matter.

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    Queen Esther in the king's court defending her people

    Discuss these messages of the chag / holiday (much as some of our sages did in the past):

    Never lose hope. Have faith in salvation, even in the most dire times and circumstances.

    The importance of self-help. Don't stand idly by in the face of danger or injustice to oneself, one's community – ("kol yisrael arevim ze laze" - all of Israel are responsible for one another) or others, no matter who. Don't leave the problem "up to heaven".
    ***This can also segue into a discussion of a social ill that has become more public in recent years - bullying (whether a group, a whole community or an individual).

    The importance of remembering our past and its lessons - and staying alert. In better times there can be a tendency to relax attentiveness, yet bigotry and injustice can still arise unexpectedly. Even the most positive event can sometimes trigger unforeseen problems.

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    What do you think it was like to be...

    ...the various characters in Megillat Esther?

    ...a woman in Vashti's or Esther's position?

    ...part of a minority community in adverse and threatened circumstances, and/or having to be very careful in one's manner in the larger society/country?

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    Purim makes me feel _____________________

    Purim makes me want to _____________________

    Purim reminds me that _____________________

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    Brainstorm how to carry out the mitzvah of "matanot le-evyonim".

    If one is choosing a cause or recipient involving the giving of money or resources, it is worth mentioning that Maimonides said the highest form of tzedakah was where the recipient does not know the identity of the giver.

    In contemporary times, we do not think only in terms of "the poor". There are the disadvantaged, those going through hard times or illness, those who may be more immobile, those who may be more physically and/or socially isolated, etc. Some typical options that occur in Israel are going in costume, singing and entertaining, and bringing mishloach manot and/or a useful present that may be needed to a hospital (especially the pediatrics ward of course), a seniors center, a separate special needs class, facility or school, a community center in a poorer or more disadvantaged or isolated area…

    Tzedakah is typically translated as "charity" in English. However, its meaning in Hebrew is closer to "giving righteously or justly". The shoresh [root] of the word is tz-d-k, as in tzedek, which means "justice". The language itself tells us that we should pursue justice where there is injustice. The Torah tells us "tzekek tzedek tirdof" - "Justice, justice you will pursue" (Deut. 16:20). In tandem with this, Judaism instructs us to be active in tikun olam - or to play a part in" 'fixing' the world" and contributing to its betterment. This understanding of tzedakah can then give you yet another way of carrying out this Purim mitzvah.

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    a portrait of a strong woman looking at the camera Esther, crossing acceptable boundaries of the time
    as a woman…

    The circumstances surrounding being a woman in that culture and time remind us of so many contrasts with today, as well as the many changes that took to get to such a point. One could view Esther and even Vashti as quite gutsy feminists for their time and situations. One might also point out that freedoms we may take for granted are even now still not "given's" every place in the world. One might also discuss how women's freedoms these days (and where they are lacking) not only impact women, but also impact men, children, education, economics, health, etc.