The Jewish Holiday of Purim: Why It Matters To Educators and Innovators

Have you ever felt like the world had flipped over, and no one was who they seemed to be? Today was the Jewish holiday of Purim, a holiday that is characterized by costumes, celebrations, and turning over the way we think about things.

In the story of Purim, the evil Haman (every good story has to have a bad guy, right?) wants to kill every Jew who lives in the kingdom and convinces the King to sign on to his decree. Everything is going according to plan, until one day when everything Haman thought about the King’s allegiance is turned upside down and Haman is killed instead.

Purim is an interesting holiday, at least for Jews. Most Jewish holidays revolve around prayer, family time, and taking a quiet break from work and many of the daily things in our lives.

Purim, however, is much more focused on outward celebrations – dressing up in costume, exchanging packages of treats with friends, and having a festive meal together with other families. It’s one of my favorite holidays, and one that the kids always enjoy.

However, it seems that the main message of Purim is much deeper than “Have Fun.” While it is important to take a break from the stresses of life to occasionally just have fun, we don’t really need an official holiday for this. The main message of Purim can be found in the description of how the story turned, how Haman went from being the King’s second in command to Public Enemy #1 – “Venahafoch Hu” – a Hebrew phrase that means the situation was turned over, flipped in an instant to the opposite of what it was. It is for this reason that kids dress up in costume, and change who they are, even if only for a day.

Purim was established as an official holiday to remind us the importance of reflecting on change, and what it can bring to our lives. As educators this is a powerful message to remember. Particularly during this time of explosive growth in the field of educational technology, when every day seems to bring the launch of a new service aimed at teachers, it is helpful to take a step back and evaluate our routines to see what’s working, what’s not working, and what can be changed. Whether that means literally flipping the way we teach, or simply adding new tools to our current routines, this reflection is key to keeping our experiences fresh and interesting.