Purim: Class and Group Activities

by Dr. Dov Goldflam with Gila Ansell Brauner

Methodological Note

The two articles above were selected with the purpose of stimulating text study from different and equally interesting angles.

Below are several activity suggestions which could be divided between sub-groups in the class or community setting in order to stimulate or review the textual reading. The objective in each case is a reasoned analysis.

Two of the ideas are more light-hearted in nature, in keeping with the nature of the festival.




Vashti

Task:

  • Either

    Write a letter to Vashti, giving her encouragement to stand by her decision, even at the price of losing the crown [in those days, that could have meant her head, too!]

  • or

    Write a letter to Vashti, warning her not to be too hasty and not to oppose what is considered acceptable behavior in the system.

    Aims:

    Enhance empathy with Vashti as the sole actor against accepted, mainstream behavior.
    Convey the context of Vashti's action.

    Method:

    Equal groups of three or four members are assigned either task a. or task b., together with the text of Chapters I & II of the Megillah.

    Have them first define the Queen's status in court and with reference to the King and the Empire; then ask them how Vashti's action was understood.

    In order to make the letter-writing more substantial, allocate roles which can be linked to the chronological context or spread over time, for example:

    Write as:

    • - a young Jewish woman of the time, perhaps Esther
    • - a leader of the Amazons
    • - an Aztec priestess
    • - a slave
    • - a local woman
    • - a local prince
    • - a local merchant
    • - Mordecai
    • - a Chinese overlord

    OR:

    • - Moses or one of the other prophets
    • - Julius Caesar
    • - Golda Meir
    • - a lawyer
    • - a psychologist
    • - a famous rabbi
    • - AIPAC
    • etc.

    Read out the letters and discuss the most convincing arguments.




    Life at court

    Task:

    Compose a sketch or a short speech about life at court in the time of Joseph and that of Esther. OPTION: how did they manage to eat kosher food?

    Aims:

    Explore the alien environment of the two major Jewish figures. Assess to what degree Joseph and Esther managed to retain their individuality without unsettling the system.

    Method:

    Work in small groups representing either Esther or Joseph, with the relevant texts.

    Compile a profile on:

    • - hierarchies and style of government
    • - political wrangles and tangles and who is involved in them
    • - style of interpersonal relationships
    • - customs, appearances
    • - methods of communication

    Complete and present the task.

    Discuss how prevalent or otherwise these representations are in other contexts of Jewish history.




    Devorah and Esther

    Task:

    Queen Esther telephoned the Prophetess Devorah - a military and diplomatic expert in her own right - for advice on how to approach the King and how to overcome Haman's evil plot. How did the conversation go?

    Aims:

    Compare the approach and management of two prominent Jewish women in the Bible.
    Involve the participants in a values-based process.

    Method:

    In pairs, the group studies the roles and attitudes of Esther and Devorah [Judges, Chapters 4-5], in order to determine what were their motivating values and the scale of problem they faced.

    In groups of two pairs, spend a few minutes pooling ideas for the conversation.

    Bring everyone together and divide them into "Devorah"s and "Esther"s.

    Take a volunteer from each group to play out the telephone call; explain that anyone from the same group who feels he/she can add something to the conversation can call out "freeze", approach the character he/she wishes to replace, touch him/her on the shoulder and make the exchange.

    The scene can be carried on in this manner as long as it is interesting. If the action stalls, the educator should call "freeze" and reestablish the context, the purpose of the call; he/she can also ask the actors to say a few words about the characters they are playing if they are having difficulty entering the roles*.

    Discuss how many real options were raised in this manner. Ask whether Devorah would have been a more effective support than, say, Mordecai - and examine why.

    *Who else could have helped Esther? [Miriam, Golda Meir...] Change the receiver of the call if you wish.




    Board Games

    Task:

    Make a snakes/chutes & ladders game or a monopoly-style board game, using the chance, skills & knowledge elements of the Megillah story and including Purim customs.

    Aims:

    Review the contents of the Megillah account. Enable the participants to both win and lose in the action replay. Assess the account's different elements of atmosphere, customs, chance and skill...

    Review other occasions where the Jewish community has won or lost.

    Method:

    Choose the board game more suitable for the age-group and divide the group into fours or sixes.

    Have them list up to four categories of elements/events they would like to include in the game, using the Megillah account. Now list several elements/events under each category.
    Example:
    Chance gain
    Chance loss
    Information gained
    Reward
    Penalty
    Good deed
    Evil Act

    Depending on the game, these elements become the ups and downs, the card banks, question cards to be planned into the game. In the more complex board games, allow for dice &/or chance cards, skill and knowledge in play.

    Divide the team into those who are working on each section of the preparation and on the board's graphics.

    Exchange games between teams and play.

    Discuss games, reality and Jewish history.




    Farce, verse and worse

    Task:

    What the butler saw.... at the banquets Queen Esther gave... [Alternatives: be a fly on the wall at Vashti's feast; during conversations in Haman's home/Mordecai's home when Esther was chosen Queen.]

    Aim:

    Fun, but not without some work by the students.

    Method:

    Use one of: mime, narration, poetry, farce theater to develop this fly-on- the-wall, tongue-in-cheek account of Haman's downfall and Esther's triumph.




    Hedonism?

    Task:

    Make a wall chart of the 180 days of banqueting with a square for each day or each of the almost 26 weeks of feasting. See the Megillah, ChI, 1-8.

    Aims

    : Light-hearted review of court extravaganzas, especially for the creative mind.
    Offer opportunity for group and individual work.

    Method:

    As a group, draw up a list of 26 elements to be included in the chart - see the Megillah, Chap. I, 1-8 and the ideas below.

    Make a board with large rectangles or squares - up to A4 size. Supply a pack of paper that size. Divide into small groups.

    Each group prepares a section of the chart and a visual/dramatic presentation of one or two of the elements [a speech, a menu...].

    Each group in turn, beginning with those who have the first week, now pins up its sections on the chart and makes its presentation. Keep the intervals between groups to a minimum, so that the fun is maximum.

    Review for older groups: what effect did this abundance and self- indulgence have on different types of people? What does it say about government, judgement, morals?

    Ideas:
    Reception of guests;
    first impressions;
    seated by me were...;
    the banqueting hall;
    what we drank for starters...;
    elements of entertainment...;
    different menus;
    speeches by ...;
    who was drunk and disorderly ...;
    gossip about ...;
    letter from home;


 

 

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16 Jun 2005 / 9 Sivan 5765 0