I really wasn't feeling purim this year. I mean, hey, it was fine, I read the Megillah competently, I made sure all the kids had a good time and the adults were unselfconscious enough to enjoy the silliness. And we had a good turn out, and people dressed up and brought food and were generally good sports, and I think that's partly because I've been talking up the festival for a few weeks, and working behind the scenes to make sure people who don't usually bother with regular Friday nights were informed.
I think this may actually be part of the problem; purim isn't a chance for me to have fun these days, it's a big organizational effort to make sure other people have fun. And I can totally phone it in at this point; I've been organizing activities for miscellaneous groups of kids since I ran birthday parties for my younger siblings as a pre-teen myself. I left the Megillah prep a bit too much to the last minute, so I didn't do it as well as I'd like, but, y'know, I totally can
read a familiar text from klaf (traditional handwritten document with no vowels or punctuation) even if I leave until the day before to quickly refresh my memory of the tricky bits. I can do a good old (melo)dramatic reading with silly voices and enough expression that people who don't have fluent Hebrew can more or less follow. I can produce silly bouncy enthusiasm on command, and deliver a patter that keeps people amused and entertained and throw some innuendo to the adults in the audience without making the kids feel embarrassed or excluded.
I'm burning the expletive out, though. The community are so supportive and lovely and so grateful when I provide them with what they want out of religion at the moment: straight down the line traditional rituals done with feeling and with samples from my box of "inclusion" tricks. Stuff that's familiar from people's childhoods, but updated just enough that it isn't some boring old man droning on in a language that nobody understands. That's a perfectly reasonable thing to want, and I'm well placed to offer it.
But what I want out of religion is intellectual stimulation, either some discussion of ways to reinvent and reinterpret and challenge the traditions, or some proper text study I can get my teeth into. I'm not gonna get that here, and honestly purim is almost exactly the wrong time for it even in the sort of community that does that kind of thing. But I don't have enough free weekends to go and visit other communities where I can be a participant instead of an organizer; either I'm running things here, or else I'm visiting my friends which I place at a higher priority than shulgoing. I haven't made it to any of the Manchester synagogues in most of a year, nor to pop over to hadassah
's placement communities which I've been promising to do for ages. I've occasionally managed to combine visiting my people in Cambridge with attending the very nice, highly intellectual Reform community there, but it's not quite sustaining me. And part of the problem is that work is stressful at the moment and I am, as mentioned, over-committed; even though at lot of my rushing around madly involves doing things I find really fun, I also need more actual relaxing breaks than I'm getting. ( also, I have gender and related angst )
Sometimes I've bragged to non-Jewish friends about how purim is the best festival ever, because it involves dressing up in silly costumes and getting drunk. And I do think there's some value in making the point that religion is not always against pleasure or anti-fun. But right now I think purim is the worst festival ever, and the alcohol isn't helping.