...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The whole magilleh

Today is both Purim (after sunset, since Jewish days go from sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight) and Maundy Thursday; tomorrow will be both Purim (until sunset) and Good Friday. Last year it happened that the Christian Holy Week coincided with the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover). I tried to observe both religion's holy weeks and was met with varying levels of success--today there's even more cognitive dissonance between the two religions, seeing as how it's the zaniest day of the Jewish calendar and the solemnest day of the Christian calendar. This year, except for Sunday brunch at the chaplain's, I'm sitting out the Christian Holy Week.

Last Saturday after the Torah service at P'nai Or, Reb Aryeh read the Magilleh Esther, the scroll containing the Book of Esther. As Religious Studies nerds and trivia enthusiasts know, the Book of Esther is supposedly the only book in the Bible (Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament) that doesn't contain the name of God. However, as Reb Aryeh pointed out, the word for scroll, "Magilleh," can also be translated as "revealing," and "Esther" is related to the word for "hidden." "Megilleh Esther," then, could be understood as "The scroll of Esther," but also "Revealing the Hidden." In the story, Queen Esther hides her Jewish identity, revealing it at an opportune time to save her people from destruction by Haman, King Ahashverosh's henchman. Reb Aryeh explained that he believes that the name of God and nature of God is also hidden in the text, but can be revealed through close reading and careful study.

Today in honor of Purim, I baked hamantaschen (delicious tri-cornered cookies, shaped like the hat Haman supposedly wore--"hamantaschen" means "Haman's hats" in Yiddish, I believe) with the preschoolers. It was fun, but baking with nineteen three- to five-year-olds is always hectic and confusing and this time was no exception. Plus, the school was short-staffed today so one of my two co-teachers was pulled out to substitute in another class, which throws off our whole routine in terms of when we take our breaks, cleaning, setting up lunch, going outside, etc.

At the beginning of rest time I had to speak with one of the most challenging kids in the class about not bothering others with his rest time toy and he ended up whacking me really hard on the back. It really hurt and it so took me by surprise that I started crying. I think that really shocked the rest of the kids--most of them came over to give me hugs and to check on me (in our class when one child hurst another, instead of encouraging the aggressor to say sorry--which is basically a meaningless phrase to a three-year-old, i.e. you are teaching a child to lie in order to please an adult--we encourage and model empathy by checking on the child who is hurt and seeing what we can do to make them feel better).

So basically the day went from busy but great (baking hamantaschen with the kids) to really crappy (getting hit and crying in front of the kids) in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I get whiplash from this job.