In most synagogues planning for Purim means choosing a theme. It’s been this way for almost a generation now. An annual theme encourages us to dress in costumes and be silly during Purim celebrations.
Every year, everywhere, when selecting the theme someone always asks, “Why can’t the theme be Purim? Let’s encourage children to dress as the characters in the story,” which, of course, is always welcome and appropriate. Nevertheless, choosing a theme for Purim is our custom.
At Chizuk Amuno, this year’s Purim theme is Superheroes. At the Megillah reading on March 23rd I imagine we’ll see an exciting collection of our children’s favorites when they appear as Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Spiderman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, or characters of their own design.
Superheroes capture our imaginations. It’s been this way for many generations. Some culture observers think our interest in superheroes reflects our deepest hopes, fears, and desires. I’m not such a big fan. I have to think about that.
Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist who has published about the psychology of superheroes, believes that superheroes actually model for us how to be heroes ourselves, “choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.” Though I like that message, I’m not sure if I see myself in Captain America or the Hulk.
“Who is a hero?” asks Ben Zoma, a first century rabbi. “A person who controls his or her passions,” he answers. We can all relate to that. Sometimes it does feel like we have to deploy superpowers to control ourselves, to be considerate and responsible, or to follow through with our plans.
What costumes and insignia would “Considerate Man” or “Responsible Woman” wear? Not the costumes of personal pride and bravado we sometimes put on to cover up our resolve and confidence. I find that real heroes are genuine people, individuals who stand tall and contribute in their unique way.
Ben Zoma further defines a hero by quoting from Proverbs. “A person who governs over his or her spirit is better than one who conquers a city.” A hero focuses within and tries to avoid being arrogant.
Who is a hero? Each of us is a hero when we strive to be true to ourselves. We are heroes when we derive personal strength from character and personal stature from integrity. We are heroes when we live to the best our abilities in response to every challenge and opportunity.
Our children, and many of us, like Superheroes because they, and we, crave role models. We seek personalities who believe that goodness and justice really will prevail, that we can and should live through our values.
In an exciting era of great possibility we can be these heroes for our children and grandchildren. They are growing up in a turbulent and confusing world. The goodness and caring we demonstrate provide for their security, hopes, and happiness.
At Chizuk Amuno, this year’s Purim theme is Superheroes. In our festivities we’ll imitate comic book and fictional characters for fun. We’ll also honor Mordecai and Esther, the Jewish Superheroes of the Purim story every year. Whether or not we dress up like them, Mordecai and Esther’s powerful dedication to Jewish identity, belief, and community is a truly heroic message for every generation to celebrate together. Happy Purim!