Dear Kohelet Community,
Every year at this time I send out a note asking for a community-wide effort to keep our children safe over Purim. The dangers of teenage drinking are well known and the propensity for religious events like Purim and Shabbat kiddushim to serve as a gateway to a life of addiction for young people in our community is alarming.
This Purim, however, is different from all other Purims - for three reasons. First of all, while COVID has done proportionally less damage to the physical well being of our children, the damage it has done to their psychological and emotional well being is far reaching and deeply distressing. That is particularly true amongst adolescents; across the globe and in our community as well. And, when adolescents are feeling the pain of depression and anxiety, their risk for turning to substances such as alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs as a means of self-soothing and self-medicating increases exponentially. So if it was incumbent upon us in previous years to provide alcohol and substance free environments for our teens over Purim, it is all the more so this year.
The second reason that this year is different is that much to all of our bitter chagrin, COVID is still amongst us. Yes, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel and yes, rates in our area have dropped steeply over the past few weeks. What’s more, we are all beyond tired of the restrictions, the distance, and fractures it has created in all of our lives. But it’s not over yet. Indeed in our community, Purim and Pesach present us with one of our most daunting tests yet. If we can summon the strength to remain steadfast in our masking and distancing practices, we are likely looking at a Spring and Summer far more pleasant than the Winter and Fall we just experienced. But if we don’t - if we give up before the last battles have been fought - we run the very real risk of returning our community to dangerously high levels of transmission. So I ask you - I plead with you - to remain vigilant about COVID safety both for yourselves and for your children throughout Purim and even through Pesach.
There is one last reason that this Purim is different from all other Purims: more than ever, your children need to have fun. They need the laughter and the lightheartedness that Purim represents. More than ever, they need the אורה, שמחה, ששון, ויקר experienced by the Jews of Persia some two thousand years ago. More than ever, they need the ימי משתה ושמחה celebrated by all generations of Jews across the globe since those ancient times.
So the challenge for this year is doubly complex. On the one hand, we must find ways to add additional levels of joy and happiness to our celebration. We must put the pressures of work and life aside for 24 hours and give our kids a great time celebrating one of our most joyous days of the year. And for each of us that will look different. If you’re not sure how to do it, involve your kids. Ask them what foods they’d enjoy eating, what would make the seudah that much more fun, who they’d really like to deliver mishloach manot to - even if only from a distance. And yet, at the same time, we must teach by example that fun can be had and spirits can be raised - even in the most difficult of times - without resorting to substances and stimulants than can bring far more harm than joy into our lives both in the short term and over the course of our lifetime.
Best wishes for a safe and celebratory Purim for all.