It happens every year: Passover is barely over, and my children start telling me what they want to dress up as for the following Purim. When they were little, I got creative and designed them costumes based on cute themes or puns. They were truly unique and individual, but as they got older, the creativity went out the door. “Come on, Mommy, can’t we just buy normal costumes?” They want to be like everyone else.

And so this year, for the past 11 months or so, I have once again been hearing about kings and brides. I take down the scepters, capes and crowns from our closet, and pass my kings and bride their props. On Purim, I As they got older, the creativity went out the doorescort them to synagogue and see the streets full of kings and clowns, sages and prophets, brides and queens, doctors and bakers. Carriages are no longer filled with babies, but adorable little monkeys, lions and bumblebees. Cute little people walking around Jerusalem in costumes, pretending to be something they are not.

Is this why we dress up on Purim? Is this what Purim is all about—pretending to be something or someone you are not?

Actually, I think it’s just the opposite. On Purim, we dress up to show who we really are. Let me explain.

When my almost-5-year-old wakes up on Purim morning, he’s very excited. I help him into his king costume and straighten his crown. He carries a long scepter in one hand and a bag of goodies in the other. Drumroll, please! Behold, a king!

Well, not really. It’s still my Asher Yisrael, an extremely cute 5-year-old dressed up in a golden crown. No matter what the costume is, no matter how the child (or adult) wishes to appear, the person we end up with is always the same person we started with, the same soul, the same essence, disguised behind a costume or a mask.

When you read Megillat Esther, the story of Purim, and all the events that transpired, you might get the impression that everything happened within a very short period of time. It didn’t. The story of Purim didn’t unfold over months, but over years. For more than half a decade, Esther lived in the palace as the Persian queen, “Queen Esther,” and no one knew that she was Jewish. And when you are trapped in an identity that’s not really you, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are and why you are here. But living as the queen didn’t change Esther. While she wore the royal robes and donned the royal crown, she continued to adhere to Jewish law, such as keeping kosher and observing Shabbat.

But come on! Day after day, month after month, year after year—how could she maintain her true identity?

Esther was blessed with a cousin (who raised her as a daughter) who, even as she lived in the palace, watched over her, worried about her, kept in contact with her and guided her. Mordechai never left Esther or gave up on her. He would sit by the entrance to the palace gate, making sure to know exactly what was happening to her. She, in return, never gave up on her true identity and purpose in the world. She remained loyal to Mordechai and the They were secure in their identityvalues and teachings that he had instilled in her. After many years of her living in disguise, Mordechai sent a message to Esther that her people were in danger, and that now was the time to take off the “costume” and reveal who she was. Now was the time to live her mission in life.

At this pivotal moment in Megillat Esther, “Mordechai told him (Esther’s messenger) all that had happened to him.”1 The word used in Hebrew for happened to him is karahu. The sages explain that in using the word karahu, Mordechai was echoing an important word that the Torah used regarding evil Haman’s ancestor, Amalek.2

When the Jews left Egypt, they had a mission and knew their purpose. They were secure in their identity as G‑d’s chosen people and were on their way to enter the Land of Israel. Then, all of a sudden, the nation of Amalek “happened upon them.” The Torah describes this episode using the same root word as karahu.3 The word “happened” also shares the same root as the word kar, meaning “cold.” The sages explain that when Amalek came upon the children of Israel, they scared the Jews and “cooled” off their enthusiasm for entering Israel. They put doubt into their hearts, doubt that shook their faith and distracted them from their mission. This is the cold doubt that makes us lose sight of our goals in life, of our true purpose and mission.

Mordechai used the word karah to remind Esther of the power of the Amalek’s doubt, and to encourage her to overcome it and not lose sight of her mission.

On the Shabbat before Purim, a special portion of the Torah is read, the portion that speaks of this episode of Israel and Amalek. We read this portion right before Purim because Haman was a descendent of Amalek. We also read this portion right before Purim, a festival when we don costumes, to remind us that no matter what distractions, disguises and doubts we face, we We need to know who we truly aremust always stay focused on our true identity and mission. We need to know who we truly are, to know that our soul is our essence. At this time we are reminded that we are not here in this world randomly.

As I help my children put their Purim costumes on, I think of Mordechai and Esther. I’m reminded of how important it is for parents to never give up on their children, to watch over them and care about them, to be available to them. I’m also reminded how essential it is for me to teach them (and to remember myself) that no matter where they are or who they are with—no matter what “costume” they find themselves in—they are beautiful, with beautiful souls, and a mission, a purpose. No one and nothing can or should create any doubts in their hearts to make them lose sight of that.