Where to begin with Purim sites on the World Wide Web? The problem is that there are so many. And, to be candid, a large number are carbon-copy sites.
The Web is becoming more homogeneous; it's getting harder to find genuinely creative, interesting sites. And the Jewish Web is no exception.
Still, there are many excellent sites that can give your Purim a boost.
Start with the Purim page of Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum College, a Jerusalem yeshiva that has taken to the Internet like a teenager takes to potato chips.
The e-zine style site includes dozens of articles on Purim, its history and meaning, as well as some how-to information.
Be sure to check out one of the featured articles — "Purim: The Last Laugh," an accessible, interesting description of the Purim story as "a comedy in the classic sense. All seems set for disaster and in an instant everything is turned on its head. This combination of total reversal and perfect timing gives Purim its special flavor of joy."
Good writing, but it would help if these guys did a better job of Web formatting; on some browsers, the lines and paragraphs do weird things.
There's also an interesting explanation of the injunction to drink alcohol at Purim "till we don't know the difference between Haman the accursed and Mordechai the blessed," and an analysis of Haman and Ahasuerus as the archetypes of two forms of anti-Semitism.
Most of the articles are very short — a few brief paragraphs, bite-sized morsels that will be most useful for those just starting their Jewish exploration.
There's also an extensive selection of audio offerings, including "the whole Megillah as chanted by Rabbi Mordechai Perlman" and Purim songs. In keeping with Purim's special character, the site includes a modest collection of jokes.
Despite the strange formatting of some articles, the site is cleanly laid out and easy to navigate. It's at www.ohr.edu/special/purim/index.htm
Savvy Jewish cybernauts have known for years that the place to go for serious Jewish education — from a strongly Orthodox point of view — is Project Genesis.
This Baltimore, Md.-based group doesn't provide just morsels, it provides whole online courses and serious study materials for those who want to dive beneath the surface.
Its 2002 Purim site is no exception. There are dozens of essays and Torah commentaries; the target audience here is Jews who already know the basics — and know the language of religious study.
No frills, just lots of material for learning. Go back to the group's home page to work your way through their remarkably extensive offerings on other Jewish subjects. The Purim 2002 page is www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/purim/
There's a joke that you can summarize almost every Jewish holiday in a few pithy sentences: "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat."
Most of the major Purim sites offer a handful of Purim recipes but nothing even comes close to these three:
The Classic Jewish-Food Recipe Archives — www.jewish-food.org/recipes/purindex.htm — offers several dozen Purim recipes with a distinctly Sephardic flavor. And not just the usual assortment of hamantaschen; there are main dishes like Persian lamb and apricot pilaf as well.
Speaking of hamantaschen, check out the archives of the popular Usenet group rec.food.cuisine.jewish, at www.cyber-kitchen.com/rfcj/category.cgi?category=PURIM
If you're still living in the Stone Age, newsgroups are discussion forums, not Web sites; normally, you post and read messages using a separate news "reader" program, or the newsgroup module that comes with Outlook Express or Netscape.
But this newsgroup, a veritable font of Jewish recipes for every occasion, maintains a Web site where all those old messages are stored. The site is searchable, so it's easy to find recipes for other holidays.
Every Purim site has a hamantaschen recipe or two; the rec.food.cuisine.jewish archives have no fewer than 16.
Also check out the Web archives of the Jewish Food Mailing List, at www.jewishfood-list.com/recipes/purim/&purim_index.html
Mailing lists are discussion forums that take place through e-mail; this site gathers together and categorizes old messages.
The Purim section here has a big handful of recipes, mostly for delectable-sounding desserts.
Every year Jacob Richman, an Israeli cyber-entrepreneur, puts together a nice little compilation of Purim humor, and this year is no exception.
Peruse such offerings as the Purim song to the tune of "La Bamba," the "Halachah MiDisney," "Politically Correct Megillah" and "Rejected Purim Spiel Titles" ("You've Got Scroll" and "Sleepless in Shushan" are among the groaners.) You'll find them at www.jr.co.il/humor/purim.htm
The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org