Purim Masks

Question

Hi Rabbi,

What is the reason for the custom to wear masks and costumes on Purim? Thanks and happy Purim!

8 months

Answers

  1. When you walk the streets of Jerusalem (or nearly any Jewish community) as Purim nears, you see many stores filled with costumes and masks. “Mordechai” and “Esther” joust for attention with mutant ninja turtles and Spiderman. Costumes of Kallah (bridal) dresses and “Torah scrolls” are seen alongside Nemo and Winnie the Pooh.

    You ask, “Why do we wear costumes on Purim?

    There are a number of different reasons. A mask and costume hide the identity of the wearer. From the outside, not only can you not tell who the individual wearer is, you do not have any insights into their nature. Maybe behind the mask, no matter how far they appear to be from Torah, is a Jew, a family member, “one of the tribe.”

    One of the deeper reasons for this custom is that the entire miracle of Purim was clothed in natural happenings. The events of the Purim story happened over a period of years and are seemingly unconnected. There isn’t even an explicit mention of God’s name in the Megillah. In fact the very name of the Megillah — “Esther” — hints to the hidden nature of the miracle. When the Talmud asks “Where do we see a hint to Esther in the Torah?” — it answers with a verse from Deuteronomy (31:18): “V’Anochi haster Astir Panai” (“And I will surely hide My Face”). The word “Esther” means “hidden”.

    On a more practical note one of the mitzvahs of the day is giving charity to the poor. Receiving charity can be devastatingly embarrassing for someone. Not only for the needy, but the giver may want to understandably wish to remain anonymous as well. When they are all in costumes, however, no one can see faces, and they are not recognized, thus sparing the embarrassment.

    Finally, as we all know, dressing up is fun and adds to the simcha and the joy of the Purim celebrations, and Purim is a day for celebration! Happy Purim!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team