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It's All About Purim Katan!

The following is an objectively true statement: the last period of the day on Friday is the worst period of the week to teach anything. For this reason, I rule my weekly eighth-grade class with an iron first. But, occasionally, they make me laugh so hard that I simply cannot remain in character. Today was one of those times.


I came into the eighth-grade classroom a few minutes late and somewhat harried. I found all the students sitting at their tables with their proper notebooks and fully ready to start. At the same time, one of them was dressed as a Beatles member from the Sargeant Pepper Lonely Heart Club Band album; another three were dressed up as a particular middle school Ivrit teacher; and the teacher waiting with them was covered in a giant cat pattern. It was a hilarious and incomprehensible sight until the children started wishing me a "Happy Purim Katan." I broke down in debilitating laughter when one child explained that she had thought until today that Purim Katan was a Beit Rabban made-up holiday like Pajama Day. "It just makes so much sense; it's such a Beit Rabban kind of thing."


Today is, in fact, "Purim Katan," and this is not something made up by Beit Rabban Day School. This year is a leap year according to the Jewish calendar. A leap year occurs seven times in a nineteen-year cycle, and we add an extra month of Adar, giving us Adar Rishon (First Adar) and Adar Sheni (Second Adar). We celebrate Purim on the 14th Day of Adar Sheni, but there is also a tradition to have a "little" Purim, or Purim Katan, on the 14th Day of Adar Rishon, which is today. Don't worry- you haven't missed any specific obligations, and no one will notice if you didn't attend minyan this morning because Purim Katan is a lesser-known holiday, to say the least, and rarely celebrated. The Shulchan Arukh, one of our tradition's most widely embraced legal texts, instructs us to have more fun on Purim Katan and, at the very least, avoid depressing traditions. It's pretty low stakes. 

Interestingly, we have a long tradition across centers of world Jewry of adding "little Purims." Following the lead of Megillat Esther, which sanctified the day of Purim as a holiday to commemorate Jewish survival, communities, and even individuals have established these special "Purim Katans" to mark deliverance from destruction, catastrophe, or an antisemitic ruler or threat. Communities dedicated "Purim Katans" to celebrating events like survival after natural disasters, the passing of blood libels, or the miraculous appearance of money that could be used to pay the ransom and redeem communal captives.


We have built out a whole DIY little purism industry to keep tapping into the unparalleled gratitude and joy a person feels in the first moment after a disaster when they realize they have survived. We do this by using the ancient tools of our tradition- going back to our foundational stories like Purim and carrying forth the rituals that anchored us then to guide us now. The fact that the Megillah tells us that Jews celebrated a day of Purim immediately after their unlikely survival makes sense; the fear of imminent destruction was fresh, and they felt really grateful to be alive. But, the Megillah tells us we should celebrate this day every year, and we do, delighting in the fact that we survived way back then, even when we did not sense any imminent danger. Beyond that, we have a halachic tradition of celebrating this survival story twice during a leap year, in both months of Adar. If that's not enough, different communities and families celebrate their own personal Purim Katans year to year to recreate some exhilarating gratitude for life that you feel when you realize you've survived against all odds. We reenact those days to remind ourselves of those stories and to appreciate living more deeply because we do so.


While I (probably most of you reading this email) forgot that it was Purim Katan today, I am delighted that our middle school students came prepared to celebrate. I am even thrilled that some mistakenly thought this was a Beit Rabban tradition because the concept of Purim Katan embodies precisely what we are trying to convey to our children. We want them as individuals and as members of the Jewish people to walk through the world with a lens of deep and joyful gratitude for being alive and for all those who survived in the past to bring us to this moment. And, we want them to take the magnificent traditions that those before us crafted to help them walk through this world- the times of fear and destruction and the inevitable survival that follows. 


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