Purim is fun, and food, and noise, but there is also a serious side to Purim. Before Esther reveals her Jewish identity to the king, she hides behind a mask of anonymity, one of many in the harem. Only after she speaks as Esther, the Jew, does she speak honestly, with her own voice. Her power comes from the honesty in her own voice and not behind her mask.
Many of us, especially in the special needs world, learn to live behind masks.
More than 35 years ago, as I began my life as a Rabbi, I was “advised” not to mention the fact that I am hearing impaired. Anyone who hears my Hebrew pronunciation can figure out my hearing is not like theirs. Some have assumed my Hebrew education is lacking and they are often surprised when I reveal that is how I hear the words. I can read and translate but “Hey” and “Chet” sound the same to me as do other close combinations. No mask – I am who I am.
I have met many families who try to “mask” their children’s uniqueness. They tell their children “Don’t sign in public, don’t draw attention to yourself, try to fit in.” They often do not understand that their children do not see their attempts at masking as trying to protect them. Rather, they get this message: “Hide who you are – who you are needs to be hidden.”
No! You are just fine as yourself. Esther is a Jew. You are unique. Remove the masks you are given and love being you! Masks can be great fun but not if they are worn to hide who we truly are. On Purim, wear a mask for merriment. Never because of embarrassment!
Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman has led Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, New Jersey for 25 years. He is a graduate of Temple University, Hebrew University, Mirkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem and the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College. Rabbi Grossman also works in the field of Jewish Special Education and co-wrote and participated in the video “Someone is Listening,” the story of a young deaf Jew and his search for fulfillment as a Jewish adult. Rabbi Grossman is also fluent in several sign languages.