(Lubavitch.com) Can’t find a megillah reading? Residents of Judea and Samaria call the “SOS Megillah” hotline and Rabbi David Dahan, Chabad’s representative in Tekoa, tells them the closest time and place to hear the Purim narrative. If there’s none available, Rabbi Dahan can arrange a special readings.
In Israel, where the desire for joy is greater than anywhere else, Purim for exceeds the mere 24-hour celebration allotted to it in Jewish communities in the diaspora.
The merrymaking begins weeks before the 14th of Adar, the telltale signs showing up in stores whose usual stock is completely unrelated to dress up clothing suddenly featuring racks and racks of Purim costumes, offering children all the accessories they need to parade around as everything from an astronaut to a ladybug to a Torah scroll. Public service announcements broadcast on the radio warn parents to buy safe costumes that don’t hinder a child’s ability to see. And sweets and goodies in colorful packaging specially designed for mishloach manot fill supermarket shelves nationwide.
Amid all the hoopla over dressing up and making merry, the meaning of the holiday, and the mitzvah of reading the story—about how the Jewish people were saved by a Jewish queen from the genocidal plans of Haman the maniacal Persian despot—can get lost.
“Everyone knows about Purim, but they consider it a children’s holiday,” said Rabbi Pinny Marton, of Chabad of Kiryat Bialik, near Haifa. “If you ask kids when Purim is, they say it’s the day they dress up at school” and not the actual date of Purim, a school vacation day.
Because people in Kiryat Bialik are apt to take advantage of the day off to get shopping done, Rabbi Marton is hosting a Purim activity center at the Kirion, a large, local mall. Chabad’s “Purim Corner” will offer shoppers six opportunities to hear the megillah during mall hours. A table with supplies for making Purim baskets for Israeli soldiers will allow Bialik residents to complete another holiday mitzvah.
Soldiers’ holiday needs are foremost on the mind of Rabbi Nissan and Sara Nachshon, directors of Chabad of Efrat, an Israeli city in the Judea. There are about 1000 soldiers stationed in the area. Rabbi Nachshon and other local Chabad rabbis pack up their cars with holiday treats and megillahs to bring Purim to the soldiers protecting this part of the country where Arab threats often materialize. The rabbis read the megillah at the area’s main army base, and they spend the rest of the day driving from one security outpost and watchtower to another, reading the megillah and dancing with the three or four soldiers stationed at each location.
Schools are closed on Purim, but most of the country goes to work, which is why Chabad of Dimona’s co-director Nava Gelis does not expect to see her husband until minutes before the holiday’s end.
As Chabad representatives in Dimona, a half-hour’s desert drive south of Beer Sheva and home to Israel’s nuclear research center, Rabbi Yisrael and Nava Gelis spend Purim apart to bring the holiday to the city’s 35,000 residents, mostly from Morocco, Romania, and Russia. Instead of trying to pull people in to hear the chanting of the Purim narrative, the megillah, Rabbi Gelis and his colleagues bring Purim to the public, offering megillah readings at police stations, Magen David ambulance depots, and opposite Dimona’s City Hall.
Like Rabbi Nachshon, Rabbi Dahan spends most of Purim eve and day with soldiers. Last year, Rabbi Dahan survived a hail of Arab-thrown rocks that shattered his car windows during his holiday rounds. The assault did not deter him from his mission.
“The Arabs can’t stop me from making the soldiers happy on Purim,” Rabbi Dahan said.