Purim

Purim is celebrated on the Jewish Calendar Date: 14th of Adar (15th of Adar for cities in the land of Israel that were walled during the First Temple period).

In the years 539-332 BCE the First Persian or Achaemenid Persian Empire ruled from the border of India to Egypt and Turkey. When the Babylonians expelled many of the Jews from the land of Israel in 586 BCE, they dispersed throughout the area ruled by the Babylonian Empire.

According to the Biblical Book of Esther, a senior Persian minister named Haman conspired against the Jews in the 5th-4thcentury BCE. He gained the approval of the Persian Achashverosh Commonly identified as Artaxerxes II, who ruled from 405 to 358 BCE.

It should be noted that there are many scholars who question whether the Book of Esther is meant to be read as an accurate historical account.

To wipe out the Jews and loot their wealth for the kingdom’s treasury. Haman cast a lot or pur to decide which month the deed would be carried out. The lot fell on the month of Adar.

A Jewish Persian Judge named Mordechai and a Jewish Persian queen named Esther intrigued against Haman’s plans and eventually succeeded in causing the King to execute Haman and his family. This seminal event resulted in the Jews gaining the right to organize and defend themselves against those who wished to destroy them. The Jews did so and killed many of their enemies. Thus for the Jews, the month of Adar was a month where the threat of destruction was replaced with salvation.

meguilat EsterThe Jewish people established a permanent holiday in the middle of the month of Adar to celebrate this event in which they were saved from annihilation. The holiday was called “Purim” after the purs or lots that Haman cast to determine the destruction of the Jewish people. The 14th of Adar is when most Jews celebrate, while the 15thof Adar is celebrated by all Jews who live in or near ancient walled cities in Israel. ((This is so because according to the book of Esther the Jews of the walled Persian city of Shushan defeated their enemies on the 15th of Adar. Thus the Jews took upon themselves to observe Purim the 15th of Adar if and when they are near a walled city. As a sign of respect to the land of Israel, only Jews who live in cities which have/had walls in this land from the time of Joshua (13th century BCE) may celebrate Purim on the 15th.))

Purim is one of two holidays established in the Second Temple Era (516 BCE-70 AD), with the other one being Hannukah). It is a time of pure celebration and merriment. Unlike Biblical holidays, there are no prohibitions on work or travel. So unlike on the Jewish New Year or Yom Kippur, on Purim, Jews may cook, drive, garden etc. Among the customs Jews follow on Purim are the following:

Reading the Biblical Book of Esther (also called the Megila or scroll of Esther): Jews – men, women and children – listen in both the night and the daytime of Purim to a reading of the Megilah, “booing” whenever Haman’s name comes up.

Dressing Up in Costumes: One of the most popular customs is for Jews to dress up in various costumes on this day.

Eating a Festive Meal

Giving Charity known as “Presents for the Poor”

Giving Food and Treats to Friends and Family: It is customary for Jews to give their friends and family baskets with candy and sweets on this day.

In addition to these customs, many Jews pull pranks, tell jokes and even get drunk in celebration of this holiday. Newspapers and journals publish humorous and satirical sections during this time. Even normally serious institutions such as the religious centers of study known as yeshivot have light-hearted ceremonies. One such famous ceremony is the “Rav Purim” event where the Head Yeshiva Rabbi is mimicked and lightly mocked.

Foods

Ozen HamanThe signature food of Purim is the “Ear of Haman” or “Hamantaschen” in Yiddish. It is a pastry shaped like a triangle. The dough is filled with a sweet filling – apricot, poppy seed, prune, apple and so forth – and then folded in place by the outlying part of the dough to form a triangle-shaped cookie.

Salutations

It is customary to say “Purim Sameach” or “Happy Purim” to Jews at this time.a

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Published: 13-07-2015