Thursday, March 20, 2008

TT - It's Purim!


So what is Purim anyway?

1. Purim (Hebrew: פורים "lots", related to Akkadian pūru) is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman's plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (Megillat Esther). According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews. (Thanks Wikipedia, I couldn't have said it better myself. So I didn't.)

And now for some help from Judaism 101 (no reason to reinvent the wheel here, is there?):

2. Purim 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 extermination.

3. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. 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 the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity. Children learn the Purim story in school each year. Even my 4 year old daughter, who was very busy dressing up for the holiday as Cinderella, can tell you about Esther, Mordecai, Ahaseurus and the rest of the crew.

4. The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman 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 gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.

5. Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into 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 had been prepared for Mordecai.

Back to me again for the modern secular Israeli take on things:

6. Purim today bears a striking resemblance to an American Halloween. While the holiday is rooted in religious tradition, the costumes look remarkably like Anytown, USA (among secular Israelis that is, the more religious segments of society often prefer traditional biblical costumes or costumes from the story of Purim). This year my 7 year old is dressed as a boxer, complete with satin "Champ" robe while my daughter is Cinderella (oh my aching feminist sensibilities...). Itai's friends are dressed as soccer players, cartoon characters, wizards, you name it. In Maya's class the girls were mainly princesses - Cinderella, Snow White, a damsel in distress, Minnie Mouse and others and among the boys Peter Pan and Bob the Builder were in the lead when I left.

7. It is traditional to bring baskets of sweets to friends and neighbors. These baskets are known as mishloach manot in Hebrew or shalach manos in homes with a Yiddish/Eastern European tradition. For school-age children, this means preparing a basket filled with various chocolates and candy, a small toy (usually a noisemaker) and a few hamantaschen. The baskets are then "raffled" off in the classroom, with each kid bringing home someone else's basket.

8. Hamantaschen ("Haman's Hat"), and called "Haman's Ears" in Hebrew, are the Purim cookie. They are 3-sided, with various types of filling inside. Traditional fillings in North America are jelly or poppyseed. Here in Israel dates are more popular, and of course chocolate-filled is usually the children's filling of choice. You can find a recipe for hamantaschen here. You can find a wheat-free, gluten-free version here, towards the bottom of the page.

9. The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. To "blot out the name of Haman" people boo, hiss, stamp their feet and rattle groggers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the reading.


10. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar, which is usually in February or March. The 13th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews, and the day that the Jews fought to save their lives. The next day, the 14th, celebrates the survival of the Jewish people.

11. In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, 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.

12. Purim calls for celebrants to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai," though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. No one is supposed to become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill, and alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from the obligation. (I suspect this commandment is more widely obeyed in the religious sector. Other than a few raucous Purim parties I attended during my misspent youth I've never been to an event where the adults get plastered, or for that matter even really drink. Israelis on the whole are not big drinkers at all.)

13. Purim begins at sunset on Thursday March 20 this year, and ends at sundown on Friday.

A very happy Purim to all who are celebrating.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!




35 comments:

Lazy Daisy said...

How fun. We studied about this holiday before and it sounds like a lot of fun.

Pieces of Me said...

Chag Purim S'meach, my friend.

nicholas said...

Plastered or no, have fun!

Kelley said...

I loved this! I sat down with some salty chips and absorbed it all. I love reading of your traditions.

And the photos in the previous post cracked me up. They are so cute!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I remember listening to the reading of Esther during my college days at the University of Miami. It was fun to cheer for Esther and Moredcai while booing Haman!

Shannon said...

So interesting. Sounds like a super fun holiday. I am shocked that drunkeness is a commandment. That combined with costumes makes for a great religious holiday if you ask me!

Di said...

We belonged to a temple in Miami that did an annual Purim rock opera. Purim to Beatle's songs.

L^2 said...

Very interesting list. This is one Jewish holiday I didn't know much about. Thanks for sharing.

Janet said...

Happy Purim to you and your family :-)

re: #6, I never knew that! How interesting!

I didn't do a T13 this week, that's why I didn't sign into the auto links :-) I had something I wanted to talk about.

SandyCarlson said...

Esther is my hero! This is a wonderful story. God bless.

SJ Reidhead said...

Very fascinating. Esther is my favorite romance. You can't beat a good plot-line - timeless.

SJR
The Pink Flamingo
http://thepinkflamingo.blogharbor.com/blog

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Happy Purim, my friend!

Isn't it great being part of a religion that has TWO holidays in which you're supposed to get drunk?

*grin*

I'm not a big drinker, either. It's the idea that's fun.

laughingatchaos said...

Thank God, I was right about the cookies! LOL! What a wonderful holiday; I'm so glad you shared it today. :)

Lea said...

I love hearing this story from you... Enjoy this holiday and all that it means for you!

Your kids are just so cute, and don't worry, princesses do grow up!

pussreboots said...

Halloween has its religious background too but it's gone all secular here in the States.

Happy Purim.

Esther rocked!

Danica/Dream said...

Happy Purim!

I'm so glad you shared this, because I can't find my Jewish calendar and I knew it was coming up, I just couldn't remember when.

xakara said...

This sounds like my kind of holiday! Of course, I'm a Halloween girl, so it would. :)

I always feel so informed and intrigued after one of these post. Soon, I'll need to make a folder of just your TT's so I can come back and absorb more and more details over time.

Happy TT

~X

Di said...

OK...you are living near Tel Aviv. This explains the second cup of coffee comment you left on my blog. I was worried that you were here on the east coast of the US and were suffering from insomnia.

True story: a Christian woman married to a Jewish man in Miami had her son at a Jewish preschool. With Purim coming and a Purim parade announced at school, she asked a Jewish friend what it was all about. The friend explained about the children dressing up. Eager for her child to be dressed up for the parade, the woman carefully constructed and sent her child to school dressed as...


...a duck!

Robin said...

LOL.

See, now here in Israel that would have been just fine. I suspect it wasn't quite what the Jewish preschool was looking for though. Nevermind, just chuck another quarter into the therapy fund ;-). I'm sure he was an adorable duck.

Gattina said...

Very interesting TT ! I love to read about traditions and it seems to be a very funny feast ! I don't know if it is celebrated here amongst the jews, I have never heard of it.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Happy Purim!!!

Grandmother Wren said...

Fascinating!
Thank you so much!

Lori said...

Well then, you learn something new every day:) Thanks for sharing and for stopping by. Happy TT.

Darla said...

What a fun holiday! Happy Purim, and thanks for the explanations!

Suprina said...

Robin,
I so enjoy reading about your traditions. You give me new insight...
Great TT!

Moondancer said...

What an interesting story. Thank you for sharing.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I appreciate your willingness to share. I know this must be a ton of work - but I enjoy it quite a bit.

I hope you and your family are safe and well!

cajunvegan said...

Mmmmmmm cookies and alcohol.

Seriously, thanks for sharing. I love tradition and look forward to reading your posts about Judaism.

Have a great Purim.

Thanks for stopping by my snarky another one bites the dust non-promotion edition.

Brenda ND said...

Nice post. I heard there's a good movie about Purim, well, Esther really. It's called,"One Night with the King." I haven't seen it yet, but I want to.

~Virginia~ said...

happy purim! don't you just love wikipedia? SO helpful!

The Mama Bear said...

Thanks for an very educational T13 this week. Happy Purim!

Mrs. W said...

I love the story of Esther and the Jews' triumph over Mordechai. And the movie, "One Night with the King," is excellent.

bellamocha said...

I loved reading this. We celebrate both Christian and Jewish festivals in our family, although living near the Christian relatives, that side has tended to be celebrated more. I'm really looking forward now to living near to the Jewish side of our family and learning more about their beliefs and traditions. The story about Esther is wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

Mine's up too:
http://bellamocha.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/thursday-thirteen-7

myrtle beached whale said...

Thanks for another peek into your very interesting culture. I am always learning from your blog.
Chag Sameach

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I should've known you'd have a great explanation! Thank you!!!