Updated: Aug 17
One year, when I went to shul for megila reading, I was a few minutes early, so I stopped to watch the adorable costumed children running around. I saw many little girls dressed up as princesses, fairies and brides, and most of the little boys were pirates, robbers, and ninjas. Not a prince in sight. A preschool version of the “shidduch crisis.” Of course, that was a joke, but the metaphor might fit…
If you ask any Yeshiva grade schooler what we learn from the Purim story, both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” you would probably get one of several common, correct answers:
Seek to notice G-d’s hand in the course of human events and our own lives.
Don’t go to non-kosher parties or get drunk with bad people.
Don’t bow down to villains.
Give credit to the original information source.
Be brave and stand up for your people.
Prayer and repentance can bring salvation.
Something about triangular cookies and hats.
But what you would be unlikely to hear is this: Bad men hurt women- and we shouldn’t do that.
One can attend 12 years of cumulative 6 figure religious schooling, and never learn that Achashverosh was systematically capturing and raping virgins to see which one he liked the best. We know he was a drunk, a fool, but we tend to gloss over the fact that he was a predator.
Now I get where this would be difficult to illustrate or incorporate into preschool plays. But for our teens, this is a great opportunity to teach about healthy sexuality, from its reverse.
“Do you know why Achashverosh was evil? Not only because he drank too much and was a materialistic show-off. But because he looked at and treated women like objects. He took advantage of his position, abused his power, humiliated his wife, and violated many innocent girls, just for his own selfish, animalistic pleasure. That’s what a wicked person did then, and unfortunately some still do today. Good men don’t do this. Good men are loyal, respectful, kind, and gentle. Good men want to understand a woman’s mind and feelings, not only her body.” Then we teach our boys how to think about, see, and treat women. That there are men, thoughts, and behaviors that are cruel, selfish, and objectifying, and others that are noble, chivalrous, and honorable. That many men have moments of temptation, where they might feel the urge to see and treat women like Achashverosh did, (and the pornography industry does) but that a good man chooses not to. We teach our girls how to respect themselves enough to recognize and avoid men who only see them as pretty faces and bodies. Not to be flattered by that kind of attention. And instead, to seek out the good ones, who will treat them well, respect and support their endeavors, and who have the interest and will take the time to get to know what’s in their minds and hearts.
Haman represents leaving things to chance- to the wheel of fortune. We, in contrast live with intentionality. Instead of leaving our children’s sexuality education to luck, we can draw from holy sources to point out and explain examples of right and wrong, which are relevant to our lives today.
This Purim, while we are celebrating, davening, singing, distributing goodies, and learning megila, maybe some more families will use this teaching opportunity for this other lesson, perhaps one of the most important ones for preparing them for healthier relationships and creating a better society. Wishing everyone a safe and happy Purim!