From the Pulpit: Jewish pride and Jewish joy

By Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn, Chabad of Centrepointe

The joyous festival of Purim is approaching. My children are so excited. The excitement brings back such vivid memories of my own childhood.

I remember attending synagogue to listen to the Megillah. I was so proud of my Purim costume. I would help my mother decorate the traditional Purim baskets that we gave to our friends and acquaintances. The adults were all singing and dancing after drinking a little too much whisky and we the children were always feeling a bit queasy after eating one too many Purim sweets. What fun! What memories!

To me, Purim represents iconic Judaism. When I think about religion, I do not see it as stifling and monotonous, I see it as fun, exciting and liberating.

How many adults think about their Jewish memories and think of Yom Kippur? Their Jewish imagination is about endless hours in synagogue without food or drink.

In fact, the commentaries tell us that the biblical name of Yom Kippur is actually Yom Hakipurim, which can also be translated as a day that is like Purim. In other words, the sanctity and spirituality experienced on Yom Kippur is only a fraction of what can be experienced on Purim.

When we think about our Jewish memories it ought to be the joy of Judaism not the oy of Judaism.

My wife just brought some Ottawa teenagers to the nerve centre of Chabad in Brooklyn, New York. They joined over 2,000 teenagers from across the globe for a weekend conference. The highlight of their experience was a Jewish concert in Times Square. Many of these teenagers, whose only affiliation with Judaism is fasting on Yom Kippur and crunching tasteless matzah on Passover, are suddenly experiencing vibrant Judaism. Jewish pride on the streets of Manhattan. The joy of Judaism.

This year, I had the privilege to accompany a group from A Ripple Effect to an Ottawa Senators game during Chanukah. A Ripple Effect is a teen organization at Chabad of Centrepointe focused on bringing happiness and friendship to children affected by illness.

Eugene Melnyk, the owner of the Ottawa Senators, generously invited some of the teens and children to watch some hockey in his box as his personal guests. Our group had an incredible time.

We were overwhelmed by the attention to detail the Senators showed us. The kosher food, Spartacat’s visit, and even having the opportunity to interact with some of the team’s alumni.

But the real glow in the eyes of our children and teens came when the Senators’ executive team lit the menorah with us in between periods. That was Jewish pride. That is Jewish joy.

So make an effort to bring the family to shul for Purim. Enjoy the dancing, the singing, the eating and the fun.

These are the Jewish memories we want to leave with our children.