JBuzz Features March 7, 2012: Six Things You Might Not Know About Purim

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

JBuzz_banner

JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Six Things You Might Not Know About Purim

It might not be a High Holy Day, but Purim is certainly one of the most joyful holidays on the Jewish calendar.

Source: Time, 3-7-12

Its Story Is About a Victory Over Jewish Persecution

Francois Langrenee / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images

Francois Langrenee / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images
Esther and Ahasuerus, c. 1775-80 (oil on canvas), Musee des Beaux-Arts, Quimper, France

In the 5th century B.C., as related in the Old Testament’s Book of Esther, Mordecai, a Jew, refused to bow down to an adviser of King Ahasuerus named Haman. Incensed, Haman persuaded the king that Jews were essentially uncontrollable and should be executed en masse. Mordecai’s adopted daughter, Esther, boldly approached the king and suggested all parties meet at a banquet, where she gave an impassioned speech about the goodness of the Jews and Haman’s plot against them. When Haman stumbled near Esther as he pleaded for mercy, the king mistook this as an attack on Esther, and he reversed course by ordering Haman’s execution. The following day was declared a holiday named Purim.

Next: Making Noise in Synagogue Is Encouraged

Making Noise in Synagogue Is Encouraged

Jewish School / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images

Jewish School / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images
Megillah – Scroll of Esther, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel

A principal tradition of Purim is the reading of the Megillah (Book of Esther) during a synagogue service. When the Megillah is read, it is customary to make noise by booing, hissing, or stamping one’s feet to drown out Haman’s name. You can also twirl a traditional noisemaker, called a gragger.

Next: Purim Is Considered the Jewish Mardi Gras

Purim Is Considered the Jewish Mardi Gras

Kitra Cahana / Getty Images

Kitra Cahana / Getty Images

Mishteh – drinking plenty – is on the menu for Purim.  The festival encourages Jews to eat, drink, and be merry, but places emphasis on the imbibing.  Revelers are taught to drink copious amounts of wine, until you can’t tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai.”  People with health problems, children, and recovering alcoholics need not follow the letter of the law.

Next: It All Comes Back to Food

It All Comes Back to Food

Steve Cohen / Food Pix / Getty Images

Steve Cohen / Food Pix / Getty Images

Purim begins with a fast on the previous day, in order to commemorate Esther’s fast for three days before she met with the king. After the fast is broken, a grand meal should be enjoyed by all, and a popular dessert to serve is Hamantaschen (“Haman’s ears”), triangle-shaped fruit-filled cookies that represent Haman’s three-cornered hat (though some say, as the name goes, that they represent his ears, or even the dice he cast to determine when the Jews would be executed). Sending food to friends, as well as making a charitable donation, are also prescribed as ways of sharing in the tradition.

Next: Purim Doubles as a Masquerade Party

Purim Doubles as a Masquerade Party

Menahem Kahana / Getty Images

Menahem Kahana / Getty Images
Israeli settlers and children celebrate Purim in Hebron in 2011.

A carnival atmosphere pervades this spring holiday, held on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar, which usually falls in February or March. Adults and children alike often go to synagogue in costume. The tradition used to be to dress as figures from the Old Testament, but today anyone from Harry Potter to Dr. Seuss is acceptable. Singing silly songs and acting out Purim plays are also popular activities.

Next: Purim Touched a Nerve With Hitler

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: