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Hiding in Plain Sight

This Purim, think about what your costume might say about you and allow yourself the freedom to embrace your hidden self.

As a kid, I loved dressing up for Purim.  I had a special dress that I wore each year to be Queen Esther.  I borrowed long gold necklaces from my mother, wore her lipstick and reveled in the festive atmosphere that dominated the megillah reading and Purim carnival. It was always fun to see what costumes my teachers and rabbis would wear.  Now that I am a rabbi who has scrambled to put together costumes, I have thought more deeply about this ritual.  I wonder whether my teachers created costumes from what they happened to have in their closets or if they purposefully decided to reveal aspects of themselves that they typically did not share the rest of the year?

Any holiday that gives us the opportunity to dress up–Purim, Halloween or Mardi Gras–invites us to reveal that which is typically concealed.  Maybe we are revealing our passion for a particular movie star, superhero, or athlete.  But even if we are lazily digging out some old clothes from college, we might be letting loose a part of ourselves which we typically keep under wraps the rest of the year—dressing as an alter ego or a version of ourselves we seldom share with the world.      

Purim offers us an opportunity to let loose.  But more importantly, it provides us with a chance to experiment with pieces of our identities that we are unsure of or with which we might still be experimenting.  In the story of Purim, Queen Esther hides a piece of her identity–the fact that she is Jewish–from the King.  This turns out to be a saving grace when her people’s lives are threatened and she is able to speak out on their behalf.  The name Esther literally means “to hide.”  Too many of us regularly hide aspects of ourselves.  Maybe we are afraid of the potential or perceived consequences of sharing these hidden parts in public, or maybe we are simply unsure of ourselves.  Purim, therefore, provides us with the perfect disguise to test the waters with these hidden pieces of our identities. 

This Purim, think about what your costume might say about you, whether consciously or unconsciously, and allow yourself the freedom to embrace your hidden self.

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