Wow. It’s February. How’d that happen?
This blog has been online for a full year. And between the two of us, we’ve managed… exactly one post. Go, us!
Thankfully, there are, as of last month, no more PhD theses being written in our household. And I (the one who turned in last month–Mark both submitted AND defended last fall, the lucky so-and-so) am just about recovered from the sheer exhaustion involved in finishing. Ready to write. And this time of year, there’s plenty to write about. Like, what’s a nice Jewish girl doing spending her Saturday nights drawing maps of Jesus’s movements through the Lenten readings from Luke’s gospel? If I sell all my chametz to my partner, can he still make toast in the mornings during Passover, or does he need to take the toaster outside to plug it in? Will either of us ever find a job?
We’re coming up on Purim, which is one of my favourite holidays. It celebrates a woman saving the Jewish people through intermarriage. Let me repeat that:
Celebrates a woman.
Saving the Jewish people.
Purim is also a very difficult holiday, on par with Hannukkah for having uncomfortable racial undertones (that are sometimes not so much ‘undertones’ as they are ‘overt hostility towards others’–this book is a good, though not uncontroversial, primer on the problematic aspects of Purim, for anyone who needs it). But unlike Hannukkah, when the story’s good guys win and go triumphantly kill off the assimilated Jews (you know, the ones who were probably a bit more like me?), Purim has an ambiguity at its centre. Yes, there’s a bloodbath at the end of it. But it’s a carnivalesque inversion–the bad guys, coming to slaughter the Jews, find themselves strung up instead. The oppressors are oppressed. On the one hand, the fact that all this happens through the intervention of a woman married to what would normally be exactly the wrong kind of man is part of the pattern of inversions that mark the festival. On the other hand, embedded deep in one of the most problematic festivals in the Jewish calendar is a counter-message, that intermarriage is not only possible, but can actually be a good thing.