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When Purim Meets Shabbos . . .

By , Karlsruhe, Germany

Shabbat as a day of rest goes head to head with Purim parties this year. Chabad centers the world over are working creatively so Jewish people do not miss an opportunity to participate in the holiday.

Most years, Chabad centers draw some of their largest crowds for the Purim day meal even though the tradition of hosting a Purim “seudah” is relatively unknown. Chabad of Memphis, TN, generally welcomes a crowd of 300 to a sit down dinner. 

But in 2008, Purim begins on Thursday night and the festive meal is on Friday afternoon. This means the feast day collides with Shabbat, and all its attending do’s and don’t’s. checked in with Chabad representatives around the world—and in the spirit of Purim, we chose to interview representatives with the name Mordechai—to see how they are turning the hurdle into a boost for their communities’ observance of Purim.

Karlsruhe, Germany
In Karlsruhe, a city near the French-German border, Chabad’s Purim feast will turn into a Shabbat meal. Between courses at the celebration, the guests will break to light Shabbat candles and recite prayers to welcome the Sabbath, and then it will be back to the table. Rabbi Mordechai Mendelson, director of Chabad in Karlsruhe, expects buttoned down German Jews, many of them Russian expats, to wear costumes unabashedly. Karlsruhe is known for its Fasching parade that has Germans exchanging their reserve for costumes to be part of a 60-float procession through the middle of town.

Northwest NJ
Halfway round the world from Germany, in Northwest, NJ, the plan is the same. Rabbi Mordechai Baumgarten recalled that seven years ago when he joined the staff of the booming Chabad center, led by Rabbi Asher Herson, as program director, the Purim feast fell on Friday night as well.

“If we started the meal too late, it would already be Shabbat, and our community would not have a chance to fulfill the mitzvah of the Purim seudah,” said Rabbi Baumgarten. “So we start earlier, and have a chance to enjoy Purim and Shabbat meal as a community. It’s a very warm and wonderful feeling.”

Lake Oswego, OR
Bringing Purim’s warmth into the sterile coldness of a busy workday is how Chabad of Lake Oswego, OR, is celebrating Purim. Rabbi Mordechai “Motti” Wilhelm has booked a downtown hotel conference room for a megillah reading and quick lunch feast on Friday afternoon. “A lunchtime megillah reading will make it easier for people who work,” said Rabbi Wilhelm.      

Coral Springs, FL
Bringing Purim to Jewish people wherever they are will occupy most of Rabbi Mordechai Lichy’s day. He reads the megillah at two prisons a few hours from his home in Coral Springs, FL.

Afterwards, “I talk about the message of Purim: victory of good over evil, overcoming obstacles, to bring a message to them that gives them hope.”

Jumping back in the car, Rabbi Lichy returns to read the megillah, again, and share a holiday meal with Chabad of Coral Springs’s Spanish speaking congregation. A son of Cuban Jews, Rabbi Lichy delivers Purim thoughts in Espanol to his pan-Latino group with members from Ecuador, El Salvador, Argentina, Venezuela, Columbia, Cuba, and Mexico.

“Our motto is ‘Judaism in your language.’ It is very important to respect a person’s home culture,” said Rabbi Lichy. “It makes them feel comfortable.”

It’s a one day holiday, so come Friday, Shluchim will max the merriment, and go to downtown hotels, to prisons, wherever they are needed – to celebrate with others in the spirit of Purim.


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