"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

2/23/13

Jewish Holiday: Purim

Here's my second post on a Jewish holiday, and unlike Tu B'shevat, this one you've likely heard of (or at least have "read the story").

First, you might want to check out this post about the Hebrew calendar (which is quite different from the one we all follow).

Are you back? Good. Now on to the holiday at hand.

At sundown this evening (see Hebrew calendar link above), the Jewish holiday of Purim begins, and ends at dusk tomorrow. This holiday celebrates the Hebrew's rescue from destruction told in the Old Testament book of Esther. In fact, the creation of this holiday is in the book itself - in Esther 9:20-23, 26-28.

Briefly, after the Jews were exiled, many settled in Persia, and through various circumstances mentioned in the book of Esther, a young Jewish girl, Esther, became queen. Her uncle, Mordecai, was a respected man in the kingdom, and he told Esther not to share her nationality with the king.  The king's second in command, Haman, had a great hate for the Jews (and Mordechai in particular), and plotted to have all Jews killed, and got the king to sign an edict allowing it. God worked through Esther and Mordecai, the tables were turned, and Haman ended up killed on the gallows he'd built for Mordecai - and Moerdecai got Haman's job in the kingdom. (That is a VERY brief summary - read the book of Esther for all the details - it's not that long!)

There are four mitzvot (commandments) regarding the celebration of Purim, and all but one come directly from Esther 9:22. Celebrating the holiday is to include feasting, giving gifts to one another, giving gifts to the poor, and reading the book of Esther from beginning to end.
The book of Esther, referred to as the M'gila (scroll in Hebrew) Esther, is read aloud in synagogue. One of the more interesting traditions associated with this portion of the holiday celebration is the use of noisemakers. Children, of course, especially enjoy this part. As the Book of Esther is read, each time the name of Haman is said (fifty-four times!), the congregation stomps their feet, claps their hands, and shake their noisemakers (gragers) to drown out the name.

People also have feasts, give baskets of fruit or other things to friends and/or the poor, and sometimes dress up in costume. It is one of the more festive holidays on the Hebrew calendar.

There are many different traditions associated with Purim. Check out one of these sites for more details (or come back next year and I'll share a few more). Wikipedia Union for Reformed Judaism
 Chabad (Orthodox Jews)

And check out a couple of Purim songs below!

Here's a favorite song of mine from Purim - it's in  English, and it even includes a bit of the Purim story. And just FYI - Hamentaschen are yummy cookies with a fruit filling (they're supposed to look like Haman's ears- check out a recipe here)

And here's another I remember - this one in Hebrew.
Purim was always a fun holiday when I was growing up. I hope you have enjoyed learning about it!

What part of this holiday is most interesting to you?
 
Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths

12 comments:

  1. Joanne, Thank you so much for this interesting post! Within the past 10 years our family discovered that our mother's family shares Jewish ethnicity. Since that time, I've been trying to learn a bit about Jewish traditions. I'm delighted now to know more about Purim!

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    1. So glad I could help you learn more! If you have any questions of any sort, I'd be glad to help you. And I'll be doing posts of this type on most of the Jewish holidays as they come along, and of course I'd love to have you stop by!

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  2. Nice post, Joanne! The story of Ester is fascinating and rich with culture. Beth Moore has a wonderful bible study on the book of Ester. "Hamentaschen" Eating Harmen's ears? lol

    Blessing,
    Laura Bethuy

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    1. I love the book of Esther as well, Laura - another reason I enjoy this holiday (and my memories of it). And yes, eating the evil guy's ears IS a bit odd, isn't it? LOL Of course, some believe they're supposed to be his hat (see comment below) - but that doesn't sound much more tasty, does it?

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Joanne, loved the post. Esther is a favorite book of mine. Loved the insight. Thanks for sharing.

    btw: love that pic at the top of your blog.

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    1. You're very welcome, Caroline - and I love the pic at the top of my blog too. It fits me perfectly, I think.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I loved learning about Purim and the wonderful children's voices. What a great way to preserve history through music - it's universal and timeless :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Nancy! Isn't it true that music is a link to so many of our memories? I know it is for me.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Purim is my favorite too! Esther has always been my favorite bible character. I always though Hamentaschen was Haman's hat? Never heard the ear thing. Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Hehe - now that I think about it, I do remember some calling it Haman's hat. But to me anyway, I heard ears more often. Perhaps it's one of those great debates - between the Pharisees and the Sadducees,perhaps? Or the sephardic and ashkenazik? LOL.

      Anyhow - thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Your descriptions are such a good balance of fact and your own experience, and yet you do it far more succinctly than I generally find myself able to do. I hope many visit your blog and learn about these holidays.

    Also, as another poster said, Beth Moore has a wonderful study on the book of Esther. She focuses mostly on the fact that God is not mentioned in the entire book, and yet He is all through it.

    Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading about all the holidays as you get opportunity to write.

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    1. Crystal, that is one of my very favorite "tidbits" about the book of Esther. No mention of God - or even prayer. Yet we know He is absolutely the thread that holds the whole thing together. If nothing else, it shows that we can witness without a mention of His name. Amazing to think about, isn't it?

      Thanks for stopping by!

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