What is Purim, you ask? Good question. I had to find out myself a few days ago for an interfaith holiday display at work. The text below is what my boss and I put together.
(It’s the short and sweet version but there is plenty more information out there if you’re interested in knowing more!)
The story of Purim, found in the Book of Esther, commemorates the saving of the Jewish people living in Persia under the rule of King Ahasuerus and tells the story of Queen Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman raised in Persia by her cousin Mordecai. Esther is taken into King Ahasuerus’ harem where she eventually becomes his queen.
Enter our antagonist, Haman, the king’s evil advisor, who is plotting to destroy the Jewish people. This plot derives from a deep grudge against Mordecai who once refused to bow to Haman. Upon learning of the plan, Mordecai calls on Esther to intercede on behalf of the Jewish people — a dangerous and courageous act, as seeking unsolicited counsel with the king is punishable by death.
After fasting for three days, Esther approaches the king and relates Haman’s plot. The king executes Haman along with his ten sons, and the Jewish people are saved.
The word Purim means ‘lots’ and is a reference to the lottery which Haman used to decide the date on which the Jews would be executed (the 13th of Adar in the Jewish calendar). Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar which typically falls in March, but took place this year on February 23rd and 24th.
The celebration of Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther (commemorating Esther’s fast before approaching the king). During Purim, Jews are commanded to read the Book of Esther and to eat, drink, and be merry! It is a time of celebration which often includes plays, costumes, and giving gifts to charity.
Hamantaschen, a triangular pastry commonly filled with fruit, cheese, or poppy seeds, is a traditional treat of Purim and literally means “Haman’s pockets.” There are different theories regarding what the shape of the Hamantaschen represents, the most common of which is that it symbolizes Haman’s three-cornered hat. Other theories hold that the three corners symbolize the three founders of Judaism — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — who gave Esther strength to confront the king, or that the folded edges of the pastry represent Haman’s ears.
You might also encounter a gragger, a noise-making device which is used to drown out Haman’s name any time it is said aloud.
That’s all for now, folks. Tune in later in the week for more in the Church Series and This Week in the News!