Masks and Disguises: A Musical note on Purim


This weekend, starting at the period of nightfall on Saturday night until sunset Sunday, will mark the magnificent Jewish Holy Day of Purim. This is one of the biggest celebrations of happiness as we recount the fact that the Jews of Persia, as well as the net of the world-wide Jewish community at the time, survived annihilation. The Holy Day divines many sparks of inner joy, as well as dropping any judgement. This is one of the sole occasions where a Jew cannot openly scrutinize a person who is begging for money. They have to just give with a wide smile and an open heart. One of the Mitzvah’s of the Holy Day is giving gifts to the poor, as well as to others in the guise of what we call Mishloach Manot. There are also duties that force us to cloud our view of reality, soaking it with a fine layer of drink.

This is a Purim parade in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Circa, the past.

One of the Mizvot that all my non-Jewish friends remember is the one on Purim. They all recount the concept that Jews are obligated to reach a state where they cannot distinguish between the good of Mordechai (The righteous Jew in the Megillah besides Esther) and the evil of Haman (The infamous bad guy who we trace right back to the seed of all that is to be spat out, Amalek). So, many Jews practice this art by drinking until they pass out, or get so shlitzed that they reach that level. Unfortunately when you have teenagers and young adults imbibe such amounts, and early in the day, they become rather loaded. I’ve seen many teens in Jerusalem step to me with those blood-shot eyes, only to stumble off to their beds, and this was only mid-day on Sunday, lightweights. However, you are not required to drink. Many wise men, a/k/a/ teetotalers, told me that they opt to literally sleep it off. Also, many Rabbis and Bachurim told me of past embarrassment that led them to sleep instead of drink. On my trip to Poland, taken years ago, a very bright Brit told me of his moment of oy that led him to sleep. He was younger and on Purim he packed in a few with his friends. He was very inebriated and decided to walk into the place of study or the Beit Midrash. In the Beit Midrash he recalled encountering a nice little old man. He then proceeded to sit right next to him. He then gently raised his hand and began to pet the head of the old man. The story concluded with the fact that this little old man ended up being the Rosh Yeshiva or Head of his entire Yeshiva. He was never able to look into his eyes, let alone his direction in the hallway, ever since.

Another visual Mitzvah that we see during Purim is the wearing of masks, costumes, and a whole array of disguises. I run the gamut, and one of my favorites was the one I wore at Yeshiva. I wore overalls, a straw hat, and a shirt with the Brooklyn Dodgers logo. Guess who? Old McDonald!!! Don’t get it twisted cause the song “Old McDonald Had a Farm…..” came from Brooklyn. There’s some history for ya. Masks are interesting as they are supposed to obscure the real for the unreal and unknown. There are many reasons as to why we wear disguises during Purim. One reason cites the fact that our hero Mordechai was given the king’s clothing to wear, hence his own form of elaborate costume. Others, and I enjoy this reason, cite the concept that the Jews were saved due to the invisible hand of G-d. There were hidden miracles, which occurred as opposed to others such as the Splitting of the Sea for Pesach. The hidden and invisible can also work with our relationship with G-d. We shouldn’t be over reliant on miracles and events that seem out of the normal in nature. The hidden aspect of G-d is reinforced with the fact that G-d is not mentioned at all in the Megillah of Esther. This cosmic streams and waves of invisibility is a building block of faith.

There are many examples in music with the use of masks and disguises. We can live with a person, be intimate and chat until the morning hours. But, we cannot know the inner core because we don’t always need Purim to tear off the mask. It can cause a sense of confusion as the Who laid out in their song “Disguises.”

This menacing low tempo song drags, just like the background sounds in the song. “I think it’s you, but I can’t be sure” They belt as they go through a confusing spell where they can’t find the real.

Another favorite is a song by the same name by the amazing group the Minutemen.

This pseudo-punk band who churned out this classic one minute masterpieces also tackled disguises. The crux of the song really hits with the last quick few lines of the verse. This is where he states that the evil of fascism and how it wears many disguises.

In the realm of rap music we all know that the best reference point is the mystical character/MC/world traveller/subversive by the name of DOOM. Danger Doom’s “The Mask” gives you the lowdown, but you can see him don the mask in all his videos. This song is far more golden as Ghostface Killah blesses the mic speaking on the obscurity of the mask.

MF Doom seemed to come out of nowhere, even though he was part of a rap group with his brother. Unfortunately, his brother passed and he journeyed to the far reaches of his mind. What came out was MF Doom and this identity of a hidden face and a bizarre yet catchy rhyme style. This is one of his earliest, and yes his got that Gladiator style mask.

Ironically it seems that Daft Punk took to this as well by being visibly masked. They are obscuring their images as if their music is their true face, which is up to us the mighty listeners.

Another great example of wearing the mask of reality is brought to you by the Fugees. They speak of the nefarious elements that scope their world everyday. They say it plain in the hook saying “the M to the A to the S to the K, put the mask on the face just to make the next day.”

It should also be noted that Ed Piskor made this connection, where the credit is fully due to him for hashing out this idea, between comics and Hip Hop culture. He points out to the many alter egos of the many artists including their transformations, thanks to the cool costumes. So, people like Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, Daniel Dumile, Richard Walters, Carlton Ridenhour, Norman Rodgers, and William Drayton will don their costumes for Purim. Now they are Run-DMC, MF Doom, Slick Rick, and Public Enemy.

Wether you’re wearing a mask, or not, remember to enjoy because it’s all hidden. There is potential within these hidden compartments, and they should be explored. Purim is considered one of the most mystical Holy Days, so we should further the mystic and wash it down with some good Bourbon, or what ever you choose to wet the belly.

Happy Purim Yo!!!

#Purim #TheWho #TheMinuteMen #TheFugees #MFDoom #DaftPunk #EdPiskor


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