Purim is celebrated on the 14th Adar (normally in March) worldwide and in ancient walled cities, such as Jerusalem, on 15th Adar. “Purim” means lots and refers to the lots that were cast in the book of Esther. Haman was the Persian king’s second in command. He plotted to get rid of all the Jews of the 127 provinces of the kingdom of King Ahasuerus. Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl, grew up in her uncle’s care (Mordechai). She was chosen by the king to be his queen, after queen Vashti was removed. Haman’s plot ultimately failed due to Mordechai and Esther’s interventions and ended up with Haman and his ten sons being hanged. The reversal of the plot and lots led to our celebrations of Purim today.
Historically, Ahasuerus was thought to be Xerxes. Chronologically, the Purim story occurred roughly from 369- 353 BCE (2382-2366 years ago), some two hundred years before the Chanukah story.
We celebrate today by reading the book of Esther (Megillat Esther) in synagogue from a parchment scroll and by partaking in the Purim customs. These include:
a) “Matanot l’evyonim”-Giving at least two monetary donations to poor Jews;
b) “Mishloach Manot”- Giving a food parcel comprising at least two different types of edible foods to at least one Jewish recipient.
c) “Seudat Purim”-Partaking in a Purim Feast. Typically, a meat meal with wines/spirits, guests, music etc.
d) Dressing up/fancy dress. Since Haman’s plot was reversed we dress up our children as “opposites” and put on disguises and masks. Many adults also dress up.
Special Foods for Purim
1) “Haman’s ears” (Oznei Haman in Hebrew or hamantaschen= Haman’s pockets in Yiddish). These are triangular dough shaped baked products, filled with poppy seed, date filling, chocolate or other fillings. These are often sent as presents in the food parcels or mishloach manot.
2) Mishloach Manot- many households prepare food parcels for their neighbors, relatives, Rabbi’s, doctors etc. According to the verse in the book of Esther, they should contain two types of food. However, today, they typically comprise a nice bottle of wine, Hamantaschen, chocolates, candies and other sweets. Children are also educated to give some to their friends in school. Since so many people send mishloach manot, there tends to be some reciprocal exchange. Occasionally, one might even receive one’s own back after a chain of neighbors “passing the parcel”.
3) Kreplach- these are meat (or other) dumplings cooked in soup, traditionally prepared and eaten twice yearly- before Yom Kippur and Purim. Yom Kippur or the day of Atonement, is the day on which, each year the fate of each individual Jew is sealed. On Purim, the fate of the Jews as a people was sealed (for the good and for life) and thus there is an element of atonement associated with Purim and commemorated by the eating of the Kreplach.
4) “Ad delo yodah” Hebrew for “until he doesn’t know”. It is tradition for adult Jewish men to get drunk to the state in which one cannot discern between the evil of Haman and the good of Mordechai= Ad deloh yadah. This requires the intake of any and all kosher wines, beers, liquors etc. Any Jew who orthodoxly keeps to this tradition, should hand over his car keys to another driver, well before he gets intoxicated!
Happy Purim= Purim Sameach (Hebrew)= Freilichen Purim (Yiddish)!
Cabad is holding a Purim party at The Avenue Banquet Hall on March 16, 2014