How to teach the Purim story to children?
Aryeh asked: As a parent raising a small child, I find it difficult explaining the story of Megillat Esther. Are there any methods (rabbinic precedence or otherwise) of explaining to a pre-bar mitzvah-age child the violent elements of the story, such as Haman's drive to exterminate the Jews, the war, and Haman's hanging?
These are crucial to learning the story of Purim and yet I find it inappropriate to otherwise talk to my child about such violence.
The same problem occurs in many others places when teaching Torah to children (Dina's rape is the first that comes to mind). However, since I'm now preparing for Purim, I would be happy to hear of a proper, sensitive approach to teaching the story.
Seth J said: When I was telling the story to my son when he was younger (he's still pretty young, so even younger), I used the following euphemisms:
King Ahashverosh wanted to show everyone how pretty Vashti was, but she didn't want everyone looking at her so she said no, and he got angry and sent her away.
Bigthan and Teresh wanted to hurt the king, and when Mordechai heard them talking about it he told Esther ... and they got punished.
Haman wanted to get rid of all the Jews.
Haman got mad at Mordechai for not bowing down to him.
Esther told the king that Haman wanted to get rid of her and her people, and the King punished him.
(I may have also mentioned the hanging. I can't remember for sure, but I remember thinking about the fact that, as far as a child that small knows, hanging from a tree sounds like an awfully uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing experience, but there's not necessarily an assumption that it is fatal.)
jake said: I'm assuming this question is based on the assumption that you don't want to have to explain murder to your child by exposing him to such violent imagery, rather than a question about how to do exactly that. (One does not have to venture too far into the Torah to find murder, so the time to explain these things comes quite soon. Most schools I'm familiar with don't even bother to put these things in context; they just present the text as is. And the children are certainly younger than bar-mitzva-age. But let's not get into a parenting discussion here about the proper age at which to teach children about these things.)
Although the story of Purim revolves around murder and violence, the spirit of the story is not lost if you replace any element of murder with some other form of less-violent unpleasantness, such as being banished (perhaps to the "Island of Perpetual Tickling"!)
I'm not sure how old your child is, but if s/he is even somewhat resourceful, and there is access to a Megillas Esther with English translation (which are usually quite accessible in the average American shul), perhaps better not to pretend that the story does not contain violent elements.
Shraga commented: I'm not sure about the appropriateness of teaching children something that didn't really happen. Children have a better memory than many people realize, and if a child grows up knowing that Haman wanted to banish the Jews, he might get very confused when he starts understanding the Megila on his own...
Original question: (How to teach the Purim story to children?) mi.yodeya.com/q/26260
- Aryeh mi.yodeya.com/u/1865
- Seth J mi.yodeya.com/u/5
- jake mi.yodeya.com/u/489
- Shraga mi.yodeya.com/u/2337