A Purim Memory

“What is your best Purim memory?” I asked my husband, as we were planning our Purim evening.

“I remember one special Purim shpeil in the yeshiva, which was done in the evening. One year the Rosh Yeshiva decided to be part of the action.  It was only after the main events. After the ‘two-tied’ emcee (he had on 2 ties) made all his jokes and sounding like a commercial introduced the events that came; a debate on the official understanding “cursed Mordechai and blessed Haman” with ½ of the guys drunk and the other ½ snoring,  followed by a buchur beauty pageant.

As the last buchur showed his ankles as they strutted across the stage, I remember, suddenly the lights went out. It got really dark.  A candle was lit on the stage, and a sound of wind was heard. A person stepped into the moving shadows of the candle wearing a cape, a pointed beard and a witch’s hat. No one spoke.  And then there was a laugh. I remember thinking it must be the Rosh Yeshiva with his great boisterous laugh he is known for, but there was a tinge of madness in it. It was not clear, not to me anyway.

A smoke rose from what seemed to be a large black pot evoking Macbeth’s witches boiling brew. In an eerie voice the figure proclaimed the beginning of a séance like in the time of Shaul HaMelech of old. Although there was a titter of laughter, the crowd was serious due to the total inconsistency of events.

“Look it is President Kennedy coming to us upside down.  (I told you it was a long time ago.) “Conspiracies, conspiracies, tell us President, who really killed you? He doesn’t want to answer.  But wait he has something to say.”  A hush. “He has come to tell us; just like he appears to us upside down, that is how the next world is.  What seems bad for us here, in the World to Come we will see it only for our good.”

And then the ‘witch’ stepped into a light that was beamed down onto the stage; “and may that be a lesson to you.”

Then the lights went on again.  And the Rosh Yeshiva seemed to become normal again, though still in his witch costume and a bottle of wine in his hand. “And now, I have a deep question to ask, “If two witches watched two watches, which witch would watch which watch? The answer is; for those still in the unknown, ‘the Witches would watch the watch that the witches were washing’.

And he went on with his jokes and tongue twisters; I guess that was why we had a 2-tied MC to whet our appetite. He ended like he usually ends his shiurm, bringing all the twisty paths together in one summation: “And why is that I hear you cry out all this talk about witches.  How was our good Queen Esther described? ‘She had a scaly, green complexion, like a witch who can turn a situation around with a blink of an eye and cup of a good drink?  Lachaim!, and Purim Somaych one and all.

The crowd exploded and rushed up to give the Rosh yeshiva their own blessings.  But he wasn’t finished yet.  The best was still to come.  As each buchur came up, some he gave an extra blessing that they should become a chassan that year.

Do you know, some of us kept track of who he blessed, and that year we did celebrate many chassanahs. Were there more than usual? I don’t know.  But it was those guys he gave the extra blessing to who got married.

Now the Rosh was not known for his drinking. In fact, it was known that he didn’t touch alcohol throughout most of the year beyond Kiddush and his 4 cups of wine on Pesach. So that is why Purim became the time of the year, we buchrim and averchim would seek him out. Even today he only gives out blessings on Purim.”


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