Chapel Newsletter Editorial
C H A P E L N E W S
Several years ago we in the Chapel realized that the Jewish festival of Purim and the Hindu festival of Holi, both joyful pre-spring celebrations, actually share surprisingly similar narratives. On Holi the story is told of arrogant King Hiranyakashipu who demands singular devotion but is resisted by son Prahlad. On Purim evil and power-hungry Haman, minister of the Persian king, demands that all bow to him, but righteous Mordechai defiantly refuses and prevails. A joint celebration was born! Now the annual Carleton Purim/Holi extravaganza is a tradition (we include Mardi Gras when the lunar/solar calendar cooperates); there’s music and dancing, talks and skits, costumes, colorful merry-making, and good food. (Talk to folks in JSC or MOSAIC/DESI if you want to help with this year’s bash.)
And here’s a twist: Last year after the festivities, still in costume and sweaty from dancing, I stepped outside of Sayles where I encountered a student standing quietly. Seeing me the student smiled and said something to the effect of, “Thanks for this amazing event. I saw one of my friends out there dancing tonight, a person who has been pretty unhappy all term, and they were smiling and having fun and I was so pleased.” “Wow” I said, “you’ve made my day!” And I meant it. It was great to be having a quiet conversation in the cool night air after all the hoopla. And it was awesome to hear that the event had revived the spirit of some weary student. I gained an appreciation of the diversity in room that evening, different people bringing their own backgrounds, moods and struggles to the party. Nice to be together!
We can’t predict what might be uplifting about this celebration to any particular person. It might be the merry-making. It might be a chance conversation. It might be the ancient narratives themselves. In both stories heroic characters - Prahlad, Mordechai, Queens Vashti and Esther- confront evil power-seekers and resist. We can ask ourselves: what false gods must I face down? Do I admire or even worship celebrity, fortune or power? Do I seek those things for myself so that others might admire me? Do I bow to the image of the person I think I should be while dishonoring the person I am? No wonder we sometimes get dragged down! It’s really a challenge to figure out what is important and then to pursue that even under pressure from without, or maybe from within.
A serious challenge deserves a serious party! Hope to see you at Purim/Holi this term, Hindus, Jews and everyone else, whatever mood you’re in! You are part of the story too, good enough reason to celebrate!
Rabbi Shosh Dworsky, Associate Chaplain