Dig Out Your Burning Man Costume!

Get your SKINNY on in less time than it takes to get the desert dust off of your Burning Man costume to re-use it for Purim.


(the pitch)

Last week, we finished reading Exodus – the second book in the Torah’s Five Books of Moses. [Read this SKINNY for a refresh on the books of the People of the Book(s).] This week, we’re starting the third book in the Torah. Like all of the Torah’s five books, the names of the weekly Torah readings and the names of the books are derived from the first distinct word(s) of the chapter. This week’s Torah reading is called Vayikra (vah-yeek-rah) and it’s the first chapter in the book of Vayikra. Vayikra means: And He Called because God called to Moses from the mishkan – the portable sanctuary – and told him about the intricate laws regarding the various offerings our peeps should make in service to God. God also asked Moses to post the laws on all his social media platforms so everyone would be in-the-know.


(the over think)

Each week, we read a section of the Torah’s Five books of Moses and it takes a year to get through the whole thing. We start and end the annual cycle in the fall, coinciding with the holiday of Simchat (sim-chaht – scratch it) Torah, which aptly means: Celebration of the Torah. Then, we start the Torah reading cycle all over again from the beginning. It’s said that the Torah is the entire handbook for how-to live an ethical and meaningful life. Strange as it may seem, we can read the Torah every week for our entire life and still find new meanings in it each time. Somehow, it never gets boring. At this point, we’ve finished the first two books and have three more to go. 

1.  Genesis | Bereisheit (beh-rey-sheet) | In the Beginning
2.  Exodus | Shemot (sheh-mote) | The Names 
3.  Leviticus | Vayikra (vie-eek-rah) | And God Called (We Are Here!)
4.  Numbers | Bamidbar (Bah-meed-bar) | In the Desert
5.  Deuteronomy | Devarim (deh-var-eem) | The Words 

1. Genesis | Bereisheit (beh-rey-sheet) | In the Beginning 
The first book of the Torah is called Beresheit in Hebrew, which means In the Beginning because it’s the opening line of the book and describes the beginning of creation. Beresheit is called Genesis in English from the Greek word for origin. The chapters focus on the creation stories, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and the Jewish start-up nation’s matriarchs and patriarchs. (We started reading Genesis in late summer. Read ‘em all. We’re patient.)

2. Exodus | Shemot (sheh-mote) | The Names 
The second book is called Exodus in English and Shemot in Hebrew, which means The Names because it starts with the verse: “These are the names of the children of Israel…” The book describes the birth of the Jewish people: our enslavement in Egypt and miraculous “exodus”, receiving the 10 Commandments, the Golden Calf, and building the portable sanctuary. On a spiritual level, the book of The Names begins with a nameless, enslaved people and ends with our named-identity as a proud Jewish people. (We started Exodus after we got over our New Year’s Eve hangover in early January. Read. Read. Read. We’re cool with waiting for you to catch up.) 

3. Leviticus | Vayikra (vie-eek-rah) | And God Called
The third book is called Vayikra in Hebrew, which means And He Called because God called to Moses from the mishkan and gave him a long list of do’s and don’ts for our people to live a holy life. Some of the chapters refer specifically to the tribe of Levi, who were the holy priests. (If you’re making a clueless face while looking down at your Levi’s jeans, read this SKINNY.) Vayikra is called Leviticus in English, which comes from Latin and Greek words meaning: relating to the Levites. That is: relating to the tribe of Levi. Although the Levites got the book of Leviticus named after them, most of the book’s chapters consist of God’s speeches to Moses, which Moses then reposts to the Israelites. (We are here now. Don’t worry. You’re all caught up.)

4. Numbers | Bamidbar (Bah-meed-bar) | In the Desert
The fourth book is called Bamidbar in Hebrew, which means In the Desert. It gets its name from its opening verse: “And God called to Moses in the desert of Sinai . . .” It’s called the book of Numbers in English because it begins and ends with a detailed census of the Israelites. (We’ll start reading the weekly chapters in this book in early June.)

5. Deuteronomy | Devarim (deh-var-eem) | The Words 
The fifth book is called Devarim, which means The Words because it contains Moses’ last words to our peeps before he passed away. In Devarim, Moses recounts many of the events and laws that were covered in the previous four books. Because of that, Devarim is called Deuteronomy in English from the Greek word for: second law. (We’ll start reading this book in early August.) 


(to be in-the-know)

This year, the holiday of Purim (poor-eem) starts at sundown on March 23rd and ends at sundown on March 24th. (Remember, the Hebrew calendar follows a lunar cycle so it’s not directly in sync with the Gregorian calendar. Click here if you need a calendar refresh.) The story of Purim is from the Book of Esther (es-ter – it’s the same in Hebrew and English), which is in Ketuvim (keh-too-veem) – the “K” in the acronym TaNaK. (If you’re acronym-book deficient, read this SKINNY.)

During the Persian Empire in the 4th century BCE, King Achashverosh (it helps to say it slowly: ah-ch-ah-sh-ver-oh-sh) executed his wife, Queen Vashti (Vah-sh-tea), for failing to follow his orders. King A. (it’s easier that way) orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. Esther – who was a hottie Jewish mamita and who was raised by her older cousin Mordechai (more-deh-ch-scratch-eye) – was chosen as the next queen. But King A. didn’t know that Esther was actually a nice Jewish girl from the ‘hood because Mordechai told her not to reveal her identity. 

An evil advisor to the king, named Haman (ha-mahn; but pronounced Hey-Man for inexplicable reasons) hated Mordechai because he refused to bow down to him. Haman was vengeful and falsely told the king that the Jews didn’t observe the laws of the land. King A. trusted Haman and told him to figure out a way to solve the problem. Haman’s solution was to exterminate the Jews and he held a lottery to determine the most auspicious date for the massacre. 

Mordechai heard about the obliteration plan and mobilized his Jewish neighbors to become activists for their cause. He also persuaded Esther to speak to her hubby-king on behalf of the Jewish people. It was risky move because anyone who came into the king’s presence without being summoned first could be put to death – even his own wife. Esther told the king she was a Member of the Tribe and shared Haman’s plot against her people. 

King A.’s response was swift. He had Haman hanged and appointed Mordechai to take his place as his trusted minister. A new decree was issued that granted the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. 

Purim is a crazy fun holiday that celebrates our peeps’ salvation from Haman’s plan. The word Purim means lots and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the most propitious date –the 13th of Adar (ah-dar) – according to astrologers and magicians, for his deadly rancor. Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar because our peeps celebrated their survival the very next day.
The traditional way Purim is observed is by hearing the Book of Esther being read out loud. The book is called Megillat (meh-gee-lot) Esther for Scroll of Esther. During the public reading of the book, it’s customary to boo, hiss, feet stomp, and rattle groggers (grog-gers) – noisemakers – whenever Haman is mentioned to symbolically “blot out” his name.

We also eat a poppy-seed or fruit-filled cookie called Ozeni (oh-z-ney) Haman in Hebrew, which means: Haman’s ears. In Yiddish, the cookies are called Hamentashen (ha-men-tah-shen), which literally means: poppy-seed filled pockets, but has also come to mean: Haman’s pockets. The triangular shaped cookie also represents the three-cornered hat that Haman is supposed to have worn. (Team SKINNY thinks Haman had no fashion sense.) 

Celebration is so essential to Purim that the Zohar (zo-har) – Jewish mystical texts – says we can accomplish more spiritual growth through rejoicing on Purim than through fasting and prayer on Yom Kippur (yome key-poor) – the day of atonement. The Talmud (tall-mood) – a collection of ancient Jewish traditions and customs – says we’re supposed to get so drunk on Purim that we can’t tell the difference between evil Haman and righteous Mordechai. (Team SKINNY adds: Please Drink Responsibly.) Another Purim custom is to send gift baskets of curated treats to friends and family called mishloach (me-sh-low-ach – scratch) manot (mah-note), which means: sending portions. Other Purim customs include: donating money to charity, dressing in costume, holding carnivals, and performing in plays and parodies called Purim shpiels (sh-peels). 


(bookmark. reflect. share)

Metaphorically, Haman is the archetype of evil in Judaism and he appears under various pseudonyms in several ancient Jewish texts. You know by now…Team SKINNY loves metaphors! We wonder: Who are the modern-day Haman’s in the world today? In what ways can we be community-activists like Mordechai or risk-takers like Esther so we can boo, hiss, feet stomp, and rattle our grogger noisemakers to change the course of history?


(the chew on)

If you want to sound like a Purim know-it-all, get your scratchy-throat on and say: Chag (ch-ahg) Purim Sameach (sah-mey-ach) - Happy Purim!