Celebrating Purim under COVID in New York
Just returned from the lightning-fast reading of the Megillah. Across the street, at Lincoln Square Synagogue.
Security checked me in. My temperature was wanded. I measured 96°F.
The session I attended, in keeping with multiple readings and social distancing needs, was attended by eight people seated in a huge, spacious terrace, tented, fitted with heaters but not much electricity to read by. I used my cell phone high-beams.
At each mention of the evil, iconic destructive man, Haman, where it is traditional to make negative noises, I did so "religiously" (as it were), along with one other person, a man about 11 feet from me, who banged a chair up and down for his noise-making.
The requisite "boos" were sparse in the 36°F terrace, 9 P.M. But mine was more customized over the usual animal sounds and interesting gragger noises.
I said "boo, " "negative," and "negatory," as well as named evil contemporary figures in the world of terribles: Ayatollah, Putin, Kim Jong-un — plus members of the Congress who are aiming at hurting us. Us, Jews, citizens.
What gave me greatest pleasure, I must admit — though, given the presence of so many probable Democrats on this, the Upper Left Side of NYC, probably a dangerous shift from the usual modest tirade of anti-Hamanic abuse in the verbal spectrum — was that now, I also clearly pronounced my personal bestiary of evildoers to stand in the "boo" space normally reserved for the Haman verbal defamations, as suitable for his desire to erase all Jews from the Persian Empire — which was pretty darn extensive and covered more than the territory, let us say, of present-day Texas.
So, interspersed with the chair-lifting and dropping of my near neighbor behind the metal room divider, I shouted out "Biden!" or "Pelosi!" as well as an occasional "Kamala" and, once, "Schumer" (Jewish, but not helpful in the run of loyalty to Israel or Jews' report-carding).
Not the usual, and the "crowd" gave me no sass, as the reader was speeding onward, and we had to keep pace in the small-print Megillah, in the dark of the nighttime terrace.
On departing, only one person advanced a warm word toward me as we left. The woman wore a towering Dr. Seuss red-and-white striped toque-like affair and showed her sense of humor as we descended in the slow, slow elevator. I thought about, but did not act upon, my desire to discuss Theodor Geisel, the real-world name of beloved children's writer, Dr. Seuss — just because a person wears a mile-high Dr. Seuss hat does not necessarily mean she knows pickles about the man behind green eggs and kosher bacon.
The reader fled as soon as he said the last word, before I could congratulate him on a splendid job without a single missed word or mispronunciation in thousands.
We all (eight of us!) descended to the ground level. I picked up Shalach Monot provided by the shul. Chicken broth, matzah ball mix, breath mints, a cookie in the shape of the T Commandments in a tablet scroll format. Two ads for getting gift baskets at a "price comfortable for your pocket."
I'll "go" to hear it again, but this time, over Zoom, when I can hear my friend in Israel, Ari, read, in his immaculate, impeccable enunciation, the same words we have heard for millennia.
"And among the Jews, there was joy and rejoicing..."