April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Read, Drink and Be Merry


The main highlight of this time of year is Purim. It usually means that winter is almost over, and like Mardi Gras before Lent (l’havdil), we have one fun time before going nuts cleaning for Pesach. But before we get to Purim, we publicly read Parshat Zachor, because no Jewish holiday can be complete without first being reminded how much people inherently dislike us.

On Parshat Zachor, we have the obligation to remember what Amalek did to us… you know, making us get up for leining on time the day before Purim. Obviously, we’re remembering that Amalek attacked us when we got out of Egypt. So there’s the commandment to read aloud and remember for all generations to permanently erase the memory of Amalek… And some people are thinking this feels a little like the Christopher Nolan movie “Inception.”

And, of course, shuls do that post-Kiddush re-reading for the people who couldn’t make the first one. Thankfully, there’s a good portion of people who show up to that one, so you don’t have to feel too bad. It’s hard enough being the guy who does Barchu at the end of Maariv, where you’re sure everyone else is thinking, “That guy was late.” It’s astounding that everyone comes to shul for this one mitzvah that lasts about 45 seconds. I mean, benching takes like three minutes, and many people are like, “Nah.”

What’s crazy is that everyone shows up for Zachor. People you didn’t even know still lived in your neighborhood show up to Zachor, like those people whom you forgot were in the class, but then show up for the final. And you just turn to your friend and give that Mean Girls thought of “She doesn’t even go here.”

I actually think singles shabbatons should capitalize enough on the fact that so many people show up to shul for Zachor. It’s a natural time to have a shabbaton. There’s an easy tagline: “Come for the hatred of Amalek. Stay for the hatred of awkward icebreakers and speed-dating.” I bet someone could write a missed connections ad written for a girl he saw on Parshat Zachor, hoping to see her again on Yom Kippur.


This year, Shabbos Zachor comes right before Purim, which is intentional, because if Purim came first, nobody would remember what Amalek did.

Purim is usually synonymous with drinking. If on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is a little bit Irish, on Purim everyone is a little bit Chabad. Many end up going overboard with the drinking because they’re strict to fulfill the custom to drink so much that they don’t know the difference between… performing a mitzvah and being an alcoholic. Things can get a little bit rowdy on Purim. I live in Washington Heights, and you really see the idea of v’nahafoch hu happen since it’s the only time when the rest of the Heights asks the Jews if they can keep the noise and partying down.

Even though the mitzvah is to drink Purim day, people do end up drinking the night of Purim, because a Jewish day starts at nighttime, or something.

For those who do party a bit too hard at night, their poetic justice is having to go to Megilla reading at 10 a.m. with 100 kids and 200 groggers. I think one year a kid brought a jackhammer. If you’ve ever been to one of the Megilla readings during the “hangover minyan,” you realize that it’s excruciating and start wondering that maybe Haman got off easy with death. Maybe a more fitting punishment for the guy who tried to wipe out the Jewish people would be to have to sit through a Megilla reading with an awful hangover, while a bunch of Moshe Chaims are shooting off cap guns at every mention of his name. It does not say God’s name once in the Megilla, but all 67 times it says Haman’s name, every adult with a hangover is thinking, “Oh God, please make this stop.”

Also famous on Purim is the idea of getting mishloach manot. More famous than getting mishloach manot is the concept of regifting mishloach manot. It’s something that we all do, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed about. One year, I’m going to write my name on a box of raisins and see if it ever comes back to me.

We regift because there’s nothing worse than being surprised by someone giving you mishloach manot. They knock on your door and you have that gut reaction in your head of, “Oh shoot, I didn’t know we were that good friends.” It’s like being invited to a wedding and immediately having to respond that you’re going. So you tell that person to hold on, while you do that three-minute panic behind the door, like when someone comes over you’re not expecting, and a woman runs to go get a hat or head covering (“Anything, even an oven mitt, will work!”). And you consult your spouse, “Come on, come on, two foods, two brachot. What bracha do you make on a banana? Screw it! Give them a Chex Mix!” You come back to the door all sweaty, and hand them some regifted concoction and go, “Freilichen Purim!” And they go, “Wait, I just gave you these raisins.” That’s why I write on my mishloach manot, “Wishing a frelichen Purim to you and your family… or whomever you end up giving this to.”

By Eli Lebowicz

 Eli Lebowicz is a standup comedian who performs for Jewish events. Some of his jokes are a bit too Jewish, but with a name like “Lebowicz” he wasn’t really trying to hide that.


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