Is it just me, or does megilla reading on Purim unleash your inner A.D.D. too? One of the basic requirements of the Purim holiday is to attend two megilla readings (one at night and one during the day), which you can only fulfill if you’ve heard every single word that was chanted during the readings. Sitting quietly for forty minutes straight, twice in two days, is challenging enough as it is, but knowing that I have to pay attention the entire time, immediately makes my mind want to do the exact opposite. (Don’t think of that purple elephant!) Also, let’s not forget that the megilla is read in Biblical Hebrew, often at a very fast clip, which makes concentrating even harder for all of us who are not yet fluent in very fast, Biblical Hebrew. If this focusing injunction doesn’t sound dang near impossible yet, there is even more to contend with: institutionalized distraction. Every time the villain of the story, Haman, is mentioned, the custom is to drown out his name with boos, hisses, and special Purim distraction-contraptions also known as groggers. Top it off with page turning, coughing, bright costumes, crying children, and the occasional grogger going off at the wrong time, and you’ve got yourself an A.D.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder Disaster).
I usually attempt to stay focused on the words of the megilla by following along with a copy of the text, but, honestly, I never last for more than ten minutes before losing my place. So this year, I tried something new: I closed my eyes and simply listened. I pushed out all of the coughing, all of the groggers, and even a few ringing cell phones, and just concentrated on the voice of the ba’al koreh (the megilla reader).
And then it occurred to me that perhaps megilla readings are laden with distractions in order to teach us the importance of pushing distractions aside, because quite frankly, life is chock full of them. We get so caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of life that we often forget to consider what we are living for in the first place. We also myopically see our existence as a series of isolated events which prevents us from recognizing the Guiding Hand that unites all the pieces together.
Let’s use the power of this Purim lesson to push away the distractions we face day to day so that we don’t miss the message in the most important narrative of all – the story of our lives.