Some words are difficult to define, exactly. You have to actually be in a situation that fits the word in order to get the real meaning.
Like the Hebrew word “balagan.” It means “a little chaotic.” But that’s really tame. And lame.
If you’ve ever been to a supermarket before a big snowstorm you may begin to understand the word a little. Or an airport when a few flights have been cancelled. Or if you’ve ever seen old time newsreels showing the pushcarts on the Lower East side at the turn of the 20th century.
But if you want to really understand what balagan means, go to a Purim celebration. You know how you always tell your kids to quiet down and behave? On Purim it’s just the opposite. You schlep them to synagogue, all dressed up as Queen Esther (if it’s a girl) or Mordechai (if it’s a boy) and you instruct them to make a lot of noise and run around and every time they hear the name “Haman” they shout, stamp their feet and make noise with their graggers, which are special toy noisemakers intended to kill your hearing as much as any rock concert would and designed to make senior citizens who are there with their grandchildren grateful they are old and can talk a trip to the bathroom for a few minutes.
It’s all in a good cause though. Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia, who were to be annihilated by order of Haman, who was the Prime Minister at the time. But Esther, who was married to the Persian King (Ahasueras), begged her husband to save her people. Mordechai, Esther’s cousin led the Jews in revolt. In the end, Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed the new Prime Minister and all was well.
On Purim we are supposed to celebrate, to eat, drink and make merry. And so the costumes, the parties and the graggers, which are designed to blot out the name of the evil Haman. This year it all begins at sundown on March 18th.
The food? Mostly Hamantashen, a three-cornered cake-cookie that’s supposed to resemble Haman’s hat. I don’t usually make hamantashen. Sometimes I buy them at The Bakery in Plainview, New York, but I’m not there very often (I live in Connecticut after all) and so this year I’ve chosen hamantashen from Kosher Care Packages (you can order them here: http://www.koshercarepackages.com/).
My box came yesterday and I found I made a BIG mistake. I ordered the prune and apricot, which are really good — tender and not too sweet and also just the right size. Most hamantashen are too big. But Kosher Care Packages also has chocolate hamantashen and I, traditionalist, only ordered TWO. My grand daughter Lila and husband Ed said the chocolate was the best one! And now I have NONE LEFT! The raspberry was good too.
Who knew?! I do now, for next time.
Make sure you order some in chocolate (with sprinkles, which Lila said tasted great “like bubble gum.”)