Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dancing Contest

Happy Purim for those who celebrate the holiday.

It's March of 1974 or 75 or 1976.  I am in the campus center at the University of Buffalo not doing much of anything.

Norton Hall, at the time, had all-purpose rooms on either end of the rectangular building. In the basement there was a rathskeller that smelled, always it seemed to me, like a fraternity house after a beer party.  Upstairs where the all purpose rooms were, is where lectures and movies might be seen or organizations might reserve space for some kind of function.

In March of 74 or 75 or 76 I walk past one of the all-purpose rooms and see a sign for a Purim party.

Purim is one of those Jewish holidays that plays second fiddle to others simply because of when it takes place in the calendar. It is as significant as Chanukah but because Chanukah occurs around Christmas time, Chanukah is more well known.  Purim, like Chanukah, has a common Jewish holiday theme.  Some no-good-nik (in this case, Haman) tries to eradicate the Jews and despite bad odds, the genocide is thwarted led by a hero (in this case Mordecai).  Consequently a holiday celebrates overcoming hate and Jewish resilience.

Purim calls for a different sort of celebration than Chanukkah or Passover. During Purim, you are supposed to get drunk.   In the talmud it reads something like this:  one is to drink to the point of not knowing the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai."   

So, it is 74 or 75 or 76 and I see the sign for a Purim party.  I am doing nothing, had forgotten it was Purim, and figure to show support for the tribe I should pay my entry fee and walk into the all purpose room for the party.  That I do.

It is quite a sight.  The organization that has sponsored the party is comprised of very religious folks.  There is a line of chairs down the middle separating the men from the women.  And on either side of the chairs--especially the male side, people are dancing wildly.

It appears to me that the men have taken the talmudic requirement quite literally.

After a while of chaotic "dancing", one of the celebrants gets up on a stage, grabs a microphone and announces to the smashed gathering that now, now they are going to have a "dentzing" contest.  He jumps down from the stage and resumes maniacally dancing. There is no contest. Just a bunch of guys swinging themselves around like mad.

This is not for me.  I leave the Purim party and the dentzing contest.

But I am glad I went.  Purim is a festive holiday, and you don't need to knock them back in order to enjoy it.

Besides a sense of having persevered and survived despite the odds, it gives us sweet cakes, the expression--a big megillah--and in some locales an excuse for a fun masquerade party.  

Happy Purim.

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