I came back to the car with the platter of insanely overpriced kosher chocolates I just bought in the “elite” gourmet store on Central Avenue. Topped with a fancy sign, the place is considered to be high-end in the upscale Jewish neighborhood that my husband’s family we came to visit lives in. We don’t know any other “good” kosher stores in the area, and don’t want to look cheap, so wasting money seems like the right thing to do. We usually are invited twice a year – for Chanukah and Purim. Every visit sparks a discussion about religion, the existence of God, and his role in our lives. Not that we need a visit for that; the topic is one of my son’s all-time favorites. That’s why I am trying to avoid it at all costs, because once it starts it never ends. The fact that it is a belief, and, therefore, does not need a proof, only makes him more passionate in trying to prove that God’s existence is not proven. The fact that nobody disagrees with him does not stop him from moving on, presenting countless arguments for indefinite amount of time.
Anyway, when I came back my husband was laughing, so I asked him why. He said that they were talking about circumcision. Not understanding how this barbaric, but medically beneficial procedure could be funny, I’ve asked him to elaborate. This was the statement my son made on the topic of Purim while I was away: “ God is so messed up. First, he wants to cut up your penis, and then drink to the point where you won’t recognize your neighbor.” This description of events, certainly, had a right to exist, since you did have to get drunk on Purim. However, we had to point out, that in the case of a circumcision the sequence of events was the opposite. First, the 8-day-old baby was given wine, and then his penis got cut off. That was when the philosophical question “what came first” did not only get a new life, but also brought many more questions. My older son was concerned about the effects of the alcohol intoxication on a baby. My younger son wanted to know what part was being cut off. My older son was concerned with how drunk-ing the baby was legal, my younger son was worried about the bleeding aspect. My older son, just finishing the reproductive unit in his Living Environment class, identified the unfortunate body part as nothing other than “a foreskin”. The value of this knowledge for my younger son could hardly be underestimated, since it could drastically improve his reputation among his fellow 4th graders.
Even though we are Jewish to the bone, we’ve never been particularly religious. We do try to follow certain traditions, like eating latkes and lighting the Menorah on Chanukah, Hamentashen for Purim, no bread for Passover. However, even though each ritual has deep meaning and historical significance, it is very hard to explain to kids. They don’t buy into “the tradition” rhetoric. They would gladly listen to the interesting stories about their ancestors, but why should they starve on Yom Kippur, or deny themselves their favorite food on Passover to show solidarity with the hypothetical Jews that lived thousands of years ago. Didn’t these Jews endure all the hardships, so that the future generations would not have to suffer? Other religions don’t seem to be that cruel to their members.
Every time we come to a Purim party, there is a different set of ideas coming from the same exact script read and analyzed over and over again. This time it was the double meaning of clothing: one that we wore on the outside-physical articles of the wardrobe; the other, spiritual one- the people we were on the inside. Looking beyond the surface, digging deeper could uncover the new concept or a theory never explored before. Reading between the lines, interpreting every single word, gesture, detail of a dress are the signs of a true scholar, which we are clearly not. That’s why I’ve asked my family members to be quiet, and pretend like they were smart, or at least somewhat educated. As Mark Twain said: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”