Purim is a
joyous holiday observed by Jews all over the world. The holiday
celebrates the triumph of one woman over an evil king that meant to
exterminate all of the Jewish people in Persia.
The Story of Purim (i.e.,
the History and Origin of Purim)
The story of Purim begins with a pious Jew
named Mordacai raising his young cousin. [Note: The date is unknown, but
probably happened sometime between 350-500 BC.] Her name was Esther and
she grew into one of the most beautiful women in all of Persia. Because
of her beauty, she was brought before King Ahasuerus. At first he
placed her into his harem, but he fell madly in love and chose her to be
his queen. [Note: He killed the previous queen (Vashti) because she
refused to dance naked in front of the court.] However, under the
advice of Mordacai, Esther never told the king that she was Jewish.
The plot of the story begins to unfold when
the villain, Hamen enters the picture. Haman was a despicable person,
but was also one of the King’s advisors. After a fight between Haman
and Mordacai, Haman vowed to destroy all of the Jewish people in the
Mordacai and Esther decided that she must
convince the King to stop Haman. The King did not want to have any
visitors, and an unannounced visitor was surely put to death. After
three day of fasting (the Fast of Esther) and prayer, she went in to see
the unannounced. Without penalty, she told him of her Jewish heritage
and of Haman’s plans to kill her people. Because of the King’s love for
Esther, he stopped Haman’s plans and hung him on the following day. The
Jewish people were saved.
Purim Customs, Celebrations and
Megillah: Book of Esther
The Megillah (translated as “scrolls”),
also called the Book of Esther, is recited every year on Purim in
temple. It recalls the entire story of Esther in much greater detail
than I have above. While the story is being told, if the reader says
the name Haman, the congregants (children and adults) would make a lot
of noise with a noisemaker called a grogger.
It is interesting to note that this section
is the only story in the bible that does not mention the name of G-d.
The significance might be to show that G-d’s will is always there,
although you might not always be able to see it.
Hamantashen are triangular shaped pastries,
usually stuffed with fruit in the middle. Translated, it means Haman’s
Pockets, but actually refers to the triangular shaped hat that Haman
Fast of Esther
The day before Esther is a fast day to
remember the three days of fasting that Esther conducted before going to
see the king.
Although the day before Purim is a fast
day, the day itself is a day of food and drink. The end of the Purim
holiday is usually celebrated with a large meal called a seudah where
there are lot of food and drink, with lots of friends and family
Grogger translates to noisemaker in
Yiddish. It is usually a metal or plastic device that you hold
with your hand and when you turn the handle, it makes a noise. Groggers
are used during the reading of the Magillah to drown out the name of
Haman. People also stamp feet, clap hands and hiss.
Date of Purim
Purim is celebrated each year in the Jewish
calendar on the 14th of Adar. The Jewish calendar is based
on the lunar calendar and does not usually match up with that of the
Gregorian calendar most people in the U.S. are used to, but it usually
falls out sometime in March. This day commemorates the day that the
Jews were saved from Haman. It is interesting to note that some cities
in Israel (that were walled during the time of this event) celebrate
Purim for two days because the story states that a walled city did not
escape Haman’s plans until the next day. [The second day is called
Shushan Purim.] Another interesting fact is that in leap years, the moth
of Adar comes up twice. If this occurs, the second 14th of
Adar is known as Purim Katan (Little Purim).
of March 24th - Jewish Year 5765
of March 13th - Jewish Year 5766
of March 3rd: Jewish Year 5767
of March 20th: Jewish Year 5768
Wearing of Costumes on Purim
Children (and some adults) will dress up in
costume in celebration of this holiday. There may even be a parade of
the children through the street or at least through the temple. This
tradition probably began around the 15th century in Italy,
copied from local celebratory customs.
It has been a tradition to hold Purim
Carnivals where there are lots of games and usually a play with lots of
fanfare with children (and adults) dressing up in costume.
Purim is translated as lots or lottery.
The holiday was named that because Haman used a lottery to choose the
date that he was going to destroy the Jews.
Shalach Manos (Giving of
It is a mitzvah to give or send food and
drinks to other. The giving of these gifts is called Shalach Manos, and
many people will go around visiting friends and family with baskets of
food. It is also customary to give to the poor. In modern times, people
will send gift baskets to others.