[Avodah] Purim Costumes

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Tue Feb 19 03:20:42 PST 2013

On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 06:12:38AM -0500, Micha Berger wrote:
: I'm curious to know the evidence that unlinks Purim costumes from
: Carnivale. If they're willing to accept, even if with a "some state"
: disclaimer, that the minhag began in Italy in the 15th or 16th cent,
: how does one *prove* people weren't copying the surrounding culture?

I see I wrote about this question before, revolving around upsherin.

As far as I can tell, there are a number of minhagim that only escape
halachic issues because no one remembers their origins and we evolved
poetic and uniquely Jewish explanations for them as they caught on.

http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol28/v28n008.shtml#09 writen 12-Jan-2011:

> On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 09:17:24AM -0500, Prof. Levine wrote:
>: The following is from Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz, Minhag Ashkenaz: 
>: Sources and Roots by Rabbi Binyamin Shlomo Hamburger, Synopsis of Volumes 
>: I-IV.

>:> The German custom to bring a young boy to the synagogue with a wimpel
>:> (wrapping for the Torah scroll) has no connection whatsoever to the
>:> practice of the chalaka (the Arabic term for Upsherin) observed by
>:> Sepharadim and later adopted by many Chasidim...

> I would have interepreted the data this way:

> There was an old inyan to celebrate the transition from babyhood to
> childhood, the boy being ba liydei chinukh in his first mitzvos.

> In Germany, this evolved into a minhag involving a wimpel.

> In the Middle East (and from there to Mequbalei Tzefat to Chassidim)
> it got conflated with the chaluqa. Particularly since they were able to
> find Jewish meanings in having a first haircut at 3 -- which is where
> Mequbalei Tzefat play a significant role.

> We have a number of minhagim that we found meaning to that probably were
> at one time assimilations from the surrounding religion:

> Carnivale and its costumes is usually around Purim time.

> Whitsun (White Sun[day]) was a pagan holiday celebrating the return
> of grass to the fields, and thus the resurgance of milk production in
> the spring. Xianity built on top of it a holiday marking 7 weeks from
> Easter. In Medieval Germany, Whitsun was marked with bringing grass into
> the home and eating dairy products.

> Yes, I know the reasons generally given for the resulting minhagim. I
> would suggest that's what made them into minhagim. That, and the general
> forgetting of the historical origins.

> And if that mechanism is okay for Purim costumes and milchig on Shavuos,
> why not for Upsherin too? Just because it's not /my/ minhag??? Or is
> it more about a fear that Minhagei America and EY are emerging, and
> our own community's minhag appears to be losing this particular battle
> for permanence?

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow
micha at aishdas.org        man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries
http://www.aishdas.org   about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                       - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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