Minnesota Mamaleh: Purim, Feminism and My Kids

What’s not to love about Purim? Another success story for our people: plan to kill us, foiled! Bring on the food!

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Queen Esther, Queen Vashti and an oh-so-very scary Haman

But this one’s different. This time instead of a Judah Maccabee saving the day, we have an Esther. Every little girl can relate to a princess (or a queen) and that’s what I’m banking on this year.

I started off the week asking the girls what they know and remember about Purim. Chloe’s three-year-old details were a bit fuzzy, except for the carnival. That she had down pat. Kayli’s five-year-old version was precise beyond belief. She knew about the good, the bad and the ugly. Well done, pre-school teachers. Well done.

So I pulled out the Purim puppets and we started playing. Kids need to play to learn. Play alone, play with friends and play with us. In this case, the conversation that resulted from our play was absolutely priceless.

We told the story of Purim many, many times. My  favorite version was Chloe’s:

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King Achashverosh wanted to embarrass Queen Vashti in front of all of their friends. Vashti said, "No way buddy!" And she was "outta' there!"

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King Achashverosh needed a new wife. He married Esther. He didn't know that she was Jewish which was bad. Esther and her Cousin Mordechai found out that Haman wanted to kill all of the Jews which was also bad. Haman was a bad, bad man.

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Esther saved the day by telling Achashverosh that she was Jewish, that Haman was bad, to NOT kill the Jews and TO kill Haman. Hooray for the girls for making everything "gooder!"

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Mwah! Mwah! Esther, Vashti, you did great!

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And now everyone can live happily ever after. Except for Haman who is dead (Ouch. That sounded so very wrong coming from a three year old!). Party, party, party! (That sounded MUCH better!) *Insert wiggly dance*

Excellent comprehension, well done retelling and fun, worthwhile play time, wouldn’t you say? But even more to the point, our play presented an amazing opportunity for teaching and learning about self worth and being a cool, strong chick. Why hello teachable moments. Nice to see you!

As we were playing I asked the girls many, many questions. Who was good? Who was bad? Who made mistakes? Who learned from their mistakes? Who was strong? Who was brave? Who did Vashti stand up for? Who did Esther stand up for? And as you probably guessed, they totally nailed the answers. Every. Single. Time. Kids really get stories. They also really get right and wrong. Good and bad. It didn’t require any stretch of the imagination for my girls to see how very admirable Vashti and Esther were for standing up for themselves and for others.

Just like any Mamaleh, I so desperately want to protect my kids’ hearts. I do realize that somewhere along their paths they will come across their share of Hamans and Achashveroshes. I want my kids to have strength, self respect, self confidence and self love. These are the traits that will keep them safe in relationships. So when we revisit the standing up for yourself and for others chit chat (over and over and over again) we can now easily say: Just like Vashti! Just like Esther! And really, who wouldn’t want to be just like a queen?

I hope that my kids will know when to cut their losses, walk away from dead end relationships, not be afraid to stand apart from the crowd, to speak their own minds and to face the consequences with their heads held high. Just like Vashti. I also hope that they know when to stand up for the many, to take one for the team and to always, always be upfront about who they are and never hide any part of themselves, especially their faith. Just like Esther learned.

Oftentimes, a strong woman is labeled a feminist. Sometimes the label is self imposed and sometimes others do the labeling. Sometimes it is meant to be a compliment and sometimes, it’s not. There are many definitions of feminism. Some of my girlfriends make more money than their husbands, and to them that’s feminism. Some of their husbands change diapers, and to them that’s feminism. To me, it’s all about being self aware of your own worth and having the life path that you desire, open to you. Thank goodness for Vashti and Esther who both took control of their own destinies. True pioneers.

Tonight, I asked the girls which Purim character is their favorite and here’s what Kayli came up with: Not Achashverosh because he was mean to Vashti. Not Haman (too mean) or Mordechai (too bossy). So that left the women, the queens. Of course it did. After a long, long pause (wait time can be oh-so-very hard when it comes to my own kids), Kayli asked me what I thought. Hmm…I wasn’t completely sure what the right answer was either and I was nervous about sending the girls the wrong, or unintended, message.

Women so often view sacrificing for others as the right choice; sometimes the only choice. But that self respect thing, that has to come into play too. Knowing that I wasn’t really answering her question, I annoyingly asked Kayli why it was so hard to choose, why she liked them both so much.  “Because…you can learn so much from everyone.” Amen, little one. Amen.

About Galit Breen

Galit Breen is an Israeli freezing her tuchus in Minnesota. On any given day she can be found juggling her husband, three children, and new puggle. Galit has a degree in Human Development, a Masters in Education, and 10-plus years experience as a classroom teacher. Galit is now a stay-at-home mom, blogger and freelance writer with a serious affinity for challah. And hummus. And challah with hummus. Galit blogs regularly at theselittlewaves.com and writes the monthly Minnesota Mamaleh column right here at TCJ. Contact Galit at [email protected]

Comments. Add Yours!

10 comments

  1. I love that you captured Kayli’s storyingtelling! *Fantastic!*

  2. Great post!!! And kol HaKavod to Kayli!!!

    On my end, my almost-three year old son is going to be TinkerBell for Purim. “Like Queen Esther, but she can fly!”

    I LOVE this holiday!!!!!

  3. Thanks so much ladies! And Rivster, I absolutely LOVE your son’s costume plan! *priceless!*

  4. He is a character that one.

  5. Hey, those are our finger puppets!!! I love this story, and at least with this particular set of puppets, unlike so many depictions, Queen Esther isn’t blonde, and Vashti is. Usually, it’s the other way around: Vashti often comes out looking more “Jewish” while Esther looks like Barbie. With this set, Esther’s a redhead; cute.

  6. The pix are a great way to walk through the story; nice! Not a bad learning idea, either – I may have to try that with my girls.

  7. thank you both! it’s fun to hear from you. puppets, pictures and storytelling all wonderful for kids, right?! :)

  8. So in the end, my little guy decided to be a Pirate for Purim.

    have no fear…he announced he’s going as Tinkerbell next SHABBAT!!!

    :)

  9. eah, I love that my little guy finally got a Jewish story with a female hero. We actually used Vashti as an example of when to say “no” to a friend’s bad suggestion last week, and he got it.

    I don’t get why the Orthodox think Mordechai’s the hero of the story. I really don’t.

  10. Vashti and Esther have come up more than just a few times for us, too. I don’t remember referencing these ladies when I was little. Sadly, I think Mordechai was all of my teachers’ “chosen guy.” Tziporah, your example is an especially good one that kids acn easily relate to. And Rivster, it seems to me that Tinkerbelle would totally be welcome at Shabbat! :)