Saturday, March 15, 2014
The holiday of Purim is a relatively minor though fun Jewish holiday that comes in March. There's dress-up in costumes like Esther and Mordecai and the other characters in the Purim story, a carnival with games and prizes, and a delicious pastry called hamantashen shaped like the hat of the villain, Haman, who is hung at story's end.
One additional tradition of the holiday is the amusing game called Hang Haman, the Jewish version of Hangman. Through this charming custom, Jewish children the world over have fun while experiencing the unvarnished delight of bloodthirsty revenge and learning all about the joys of capital punishment.
It's Purim now in a home somewhere in America:
"Hi, Joel! Hiya, Max!"
"Dad, Happy Purim!"
"You too, boys. Ha, ha! You guys killing Haman again?"
"Yeah, Dad! Joel's been missing a lot of words at Hang Haman, so we've been stretching that bastard's neck all afternoon!"
"Wonderful! Look at those rope burns! And what have you done there, Joel?"
"Max missed one word so badly that hanging seemed too good for Haman. So we changed the game so that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson worked over Haman until Max got the next word!"
"Coooool! Looks like he beat the pulp out of him! What word did you miss, Max?"
"That's a common word, son. Missing that might have warranted castration of Haman instead of Dwayne Johnson knocking his head in."
"If only we thought of that! But at least we used the word castration earlier in the game."
"Dad ... what's that? A tear in your eye?"
"I'm just so proud of you guys and the wanton and vicious manner in which you hang Haman!"
"We had a good teacher, Dad."
And the delightful tradition that is Hang Haman doesn't stop there. There are various other versions of the game played around the globe such as Draw & Quarter Haman, Play ABBA Over & Over for Haman, and Governor Christie Sit On Haman.
Now Haman truly was a bad guy. In addition to trying to destroy the Jewish people, he was known to frequently pick his teeth in public and never to pick up a check. He deserved what he got.
But doesn't making his death into a spectator sport perhaps sends a bit of a wrong message? And in truth Hang Haman is just a tiny part of Purim that hopefully has been de-emphasized in recent years. So for me, I'm content in 2014 to forgo battering the living daylights out of Haman and just eat his hat.
Maybe this time around, sans chapeau, he'll simply catch cold and die.