Evan Wolkenstein, Director of Experiential Education, Jewish Studies Teacher

We live in a world of personas and screens, bringing a new self to every realm of life. You might say this is inescapable. We cannot walk around with our true feelings known at every moment — daily life would be impossible. So, we wear masks: one for work, one for social occasions, one for Instagram, and maybe we keep a box of them around for COVID purposes.

But Purim is the holiday that is aware of this. We are encouraged to wear a mask on Purim to become conscious of what we conceal and what we reveal. While we cannot fully escape this aspect of human life, we can make more thoughtful choices about when to hide behind a screen (sending a passive-aggressive text) instead of showing our true selves (sitting down for a heart-to-heart).

One step beyond, many of the scenes in the Purim Megilla are set during wine feasts. The Talmud says: “When wine enters, secrets are revealed” (Eruvin 65a). 

So…is that good or bad? It depends: some secrets are too destructive to reveal, and others are too destructive to conceal. Do we always know which are which? One day a year, we are commanded to confront the ways we trick others — and trick ourselves.

Next week, JCHS Juniors will be celebrating Purim in Israel, and the rest of the grades will be celebrating on Ellis Street and preparing for journeys to New Orleans, Zion National Park, and Camp Newman. But wherever we are, these JCHS journeys provide us with a very good opportunity: the chance to put on new faces – to experiment with being a different me, a different self, and the opportunity to “take off the mask” — to be more authentic, more present, more real. Often, we see students return from JCHS as somehow more than when they departed. Some of this has to do with the power of Journeys to help uncover parts of ourselves we haven’t had the chance to explore. It gives us the time and the space — and the break from “normal.” Everything is upside-down.

In that sense, the Journey season happening during Purim is a double opportunity to allow the secret self to emerge – and to make a space for each of us to become everything we want to be.

Happy Purim!