Microsoft word - purim,jewish festival.doc
is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a
time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from total destruction.
The story of Purim
is told in the Book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful
young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who was like a father to her.
Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King
Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but he did not know
that she was a Jew.
The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, evil adviser to the king. Mordecai refused to bow
down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people in revenge. He told the king,
"There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces
of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people's, and they do not
observe the king's laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them." Esther 3:8. The king
handed over the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased with them. Haman
planned to kill them all.
Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a
dangerous thing for her to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being
summoned could be put to death. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went to
see the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. The
Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for
The Book of Esther is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name of God. Thus,
one important message of the story is that God often works in ways that are not apparent in ways
that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck. Purim
is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which usually comes in March. In cities that were
walled in the time of Joshua, Purim
is celebrated on the 15th of Adar, because the book of Esther
says that in Shushan (a walled city), deliverance from the massacre was not complete until the
next day. The 15th is referred to as Shushan Purim
The word "Purim
" means "lots" and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for
holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther's
three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.
The primary commandment related to Purim
is to hear the reading of the Book of Esther, known
as the Megillah
, which means scroll. Although five books of Jewish scripture are referred to as megillahs
(Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), this is the one people
call “the Megillah
.” It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle groggers (noisemakers)
whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot
out the name of Haman."
, Jews are also commanded to send out gifts of food or drink and to give charity. Among Ashkenazic
(European) Jews, traditional Purim
treats are hamentaschen
, triangular fruit-filled
cookies that represent Haman's three-cornered hat.
It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim
, to perform plays and parodies, and to
hold beauty contests. Purim
is not subject to the Sabbath-like restrictions that apply to many other
holiday, but some sources indicate that ordinary business should not be conducted out of respect
for the holiday. Purim
will be celebrated on the following dates:
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