I think Purim was always the holiday I liked least, for the simple reason that too many people get drunk. I will note here that despite what most people think, if you read the Shulchan Aruch, you will find that the vast majority of Ashkenazi poskim who commentate the book (rabbis who tell us what the halacha, or Jewish law, is) forbid getting drunk. The Beit Yosef, a Sefardi rav and the author of the Shulchan Aruch, does not advocate getting drunk, either. In the Shulchan Aruch, he writes the language of the Gemara, “a person is required ‘levisumei’ [ed: commonly translated as getting drunk, but it is not certain that that is the only understanding of the word] until he cannot differentiate [between ‘cursed is Haman; blessed is Mordechai’].” In his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, called the Beit Yosef, he opines very strongly against getting drunk.
In other words, people who get drunk on Purim should learn halacha. Tipsy, maybe is okay, IF (according to Jewish law) you know that you will still be in charge of your faculties. Drunk – absolutely not. Most people do not know this; I am not sure why. Probably for the same reason that most people don’t know that a baby’s gut doesn’t fully close until around six months, so anything they eat dribbles directly into the bloodstream. We expect people to be educated and know the things that are important to proper living, and are basic to the values that they claim to hold dear. In reality, it doesn’t work that way.
Israelis also have an odd habit of using firecrackers around Purim. We will simply say that this is a nasty practice and Yitzchak and I both hate it. Thankfully, where we live now, there are fewer firecrackers, and hardly any drunks.
Now that I have fully explained why other Purims were worse, let’s go back to the title of this post: Why was this Purim the best?
First of, all, we did all the shopping beforehand. Second, the mishloach manot that we prepared were simple: yogurt, some cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks, and a pita, placed in a disposable bowl and wrapped in cellophane. We froze the pitot so that they would stay fresh, and the rest of it, including the bowl, I prepared the night before.
Third, and this is what made the biggest difference: Yitzchak went to shul, to daven maariv [the evening prayer] and hear the megilla. I stayed home with Shlomo and Tova. He arranged with a friend that he would borrow the friend’s megilla at 10:30pm and return in at 7am the next morning, when they met in shul. Then, Yitzchak came home and read the megilla for me, while I nursed Tova. After that, we went to bed, and set the alarm for 5:30. At 5:30 we woke up, said the morning brachot (blessings), and at 5:45 Yitzchak read for me again, while I nursed Tova in bed. Sometime towards the end, Shlomo woke up; when Yitzchak finished reading, we did some last-minute things, and he left for shul, with four mishloach manot in his hand.
That left Shlomo and I with six to deliver; Shlomo helped me wrap them up (he held the cellophane while I wrapped the ribbon), and then I gave Shlomo breakfast, nursed Tova again (while Shlomo ate) we got dressed, and we left. It was a quarter to nine. At eleven-thirty we were all back at home, with me doing the obvious (i.e., nursing Tova again, since three hours had passed), while we sat for a bit to rest and eat. Then we had Shlomo take a nap. It sounds strange, but the big boy had been a VERY big boy while walking and delivering mishloach manot for two hours (we had made some for bus drivers, and Shlomo insisted on waiting for buses instead of using the time logically to finish the rounds, and then meet the bus with no wait time; we had also gone to the store to get diapers). He was exhausted. So he went to sleep, Tova went to sleep, and I went into the kitchen to prepare the meal, which, because we had surprise company, had been set for 3pm. Then Yitzchak got called off to read the megilla for someone else; by the time he was finished reading, an hour later, I was also finished cooking. Then we cleaned up, talked, ate, and guess who went back to bed . . . and Purim was over, pain-free, drunk-free, and very calmly.
Honestly, it was the calmest, nicest, Purim I’ve ever had, and I would do it again – even though Purim is my least-favorite holiday – in a heartbeat.