Recently EG came home from school telling me all about the bad guys. While I've discussed some of the things about the Purim Story before, I never really thought about how the school might explain Haman to my children. It seems obvious- Haman is the bad guy. And he is likely described as so by everyone running around as Batman, Superman or some other Hero.
Is there something wrong with having a bad guy? No, nothing wrong at all. We all have bad guys (bosses, friends, finances, etc.) in our lives. And we all need to learn to deal with bad guys. But what worries me....
"Mommy, why doesn't Haman like the Jewish people?"
"The Pharaoh- he doesn't like the Jewish people. Why don't people like the Jewish people?"
That's right. My almost 3-year old is already worrying about antisemitism. And I can't help but wonder if it's a fundamental problem we have with not just most Jewish stories, but with my own view of my Jewish heritage.
I'm sure you've heard this one...
You are trying to explain a Jewish holiday to a gentile friend. How do you sum it up? They came, they tried to kill us, they didn't succeed, let's eat.
I've always thought that this was a reasonable approximation of most holidays. There's an entire facebook group dedicated to this summary. You start typing it into Google, and it finishes the sentence for you. Let's not even mention the numerous versions of a YouTube video song...Passover, Purim, Chanukah, the list probably goes on. And that's before we even start to consider the Holocaust.
But what type of message is that sending to our children? What am I trying to teach EG, and soon Ocho, when I describe our holidays this way. Who is they? Why did they try to kill us? Why should we eat...? Okay, they probably won't ask that last one, but I can't help but think I'm spreading the wrong message. How is it that we as a people have come to understand our heritage as a story of victimization?
I want my children to recognize the miracle of Judaism. I want the story line to be 'they came, they tried to hurt us, G-d saved us, let's eat." I want the story line to focus more on the amazing things that G-d did for us. That we have him in our corner. That we are each connected to an awesome power that we might not understand, but clearly cares for us deeply. That we have a G-dly soul and a G-dly spark.
I want to change the perspective of my own self- so I can teach EG, Ocho and anyone else that there is so much beauty in a Jewish life and a Jewish heritage. That we are much more than just victims, that we are part of G-ds larger plan, and a light of his strength in the world.
Maybe that's to much to try to teach a young child. But I want to try to help her questions be 'how did G-d do that' or 'what happened next' not 'why didn't they like us'. Pipe dream?