Purim: Jews masquerade, celebrate Esther and victory

Two plates of triangular-shaped, jelly-filled pastries

These pastries, called “Haman’s pockets,” are a popular treat for Purim. Photo by xeno4ka, courtesy of Pixabay

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28: Eat! Drink! Be merry!

The story of Purim is found in the pages of the book of Esther in the Hebrew scriptures of the Bible. Today, with the start of Purim, fruit-filled cookies are served, outrageous costumes are donned, plenty of wine is consumed and comical skits entertain jovial audiences. In the synagogue, readings from the book of Esther evoke hissing, booing and stomping, as Jews “blot out” the name of the villainous Haman. Interestingly, the name of G_d is not mentioned in the book of Esther, and many Jews interpret this as indication that G_d works in ways that are not always apparent. On Purim, disguises and costumes serve as symbolism of G_d “hidden” behind the scenes.

ESTHER, MORDECAI AND AHASUERUS: THE STORY

When the beautiful young Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, she hid her Jewish identity. Esther’s guardian, Mordecai, held a key position in the kingdom but was hated by the king’s advisor for refusing to bow down to him. In a rage, the king’s advisor—Haman—plotted to kill Mordecai and all of the Jews.

The turning point was the king’s love of Esther, who was chosen to be his queen. Though Haman had already convinced King Ahasuerus to kill the Jews in Persia, Esther fasted for three days, approached the king and revealed her own Jewish identity, pleading with the king to save the Jewish population. The king later hanged Haman and his 10 sons on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai. The Jewish people in Persia were saved from the plot of Haman.

Popular Jewish author and columnist Debra Darvick, who penned This Jewish Life with real-life stories about men, women and children observing the festivals and milestones that mark the Jewish calendar, describes the way families approach the holiday of Purim this way:

“On the 14th of the month of Adar in the Jewish calendar, hilarity reigns as the holiday of Purim is celebrated. One is commanded to drink enough liquor so that it becomes impossible to distinguish between the phrases ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mor- dechai.’ In Hebrew these words become a tongue twister, so it doesn’t take much.”

OBLIGATIONS AND HAMENTASCHEN

The carnivals and masquerades of Purim are accompanied by the four primary obligations of the day: to listen to a public reading of the book of Esther in the evening and the morning; to send food gifts to friends; to give charity to the poor; and to partake in a festive meal.

The signature treat for this holiday is Hamentaschen, or Hamantash: Haman’s pockets. FeedTheSpirit columnist Bobbie Lewis tells the story of baking these delicious triangular treats in her family—and provides her own recipe for these cookies.

EXTRA RECIPES: An array of Purim recipes can be found at AllRecipes. For a crunchy take on Haman’s pockets, try these—made of Rice Krispies. Thirsty? Try making your own apricot-infused bourbon for Purim.

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Categories: Jewish

Purim: Jews masquerade, parade and feast in honor of Esther

A group of girls in matching purple skirts and costumes walks down an open road

Girls participate in a Purim procession in Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SATURDAY, MARCH 11: Happy Purim!

Purim may be a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish year, but there’s no question: It’s fun!

Jews end the Fast of Esther tonight and feast, masquerade and drink for the joyous festival, recalling Queen Esther and the victory she managed to pull off for the Jewish people in the face of the Persian Empire’s crushing power. Because they were saved from destruction and won over their foes, Jews celebrate gaily and throw parties for adults and children alike. The masks and costumes associated with Mardi Gras are echoed in Purim’s customs as celebrants dress up to symbolize God’s “hidden presence” in the events of the Book of Esther.

Triangle-shaped pastries, filled with jam, on white plate with red cloth beneath

Haman’s pockets, a traditional treat made for Purim. Photo by ulterior epicure, courtesy of Flickr

‘BLOTTING OUT’ HAMAN: STOMPS, NOISEMAKERS & POCKET TREATS

Purim day begins with a reading of the Book of Esther, which is often done publicly in the synagogue. As the evil Haman’s name is read—which occurs 54 times—Jews stomp their feet and rattle noisemakers, to “blot out” his name. Some Jews even write Haman’s name on the bottom of their shoes, so as to literally stomp on his name!

Purim is associated with good food and drink. One particular treat exchanged on Purim is Hamantaschen, “Haman’s pockets,” which consists of sweet pastry filled with prunes or poppy seeds. In the jovial nature of Purim, adults are encouraged to drink until they can’t tell the difference between “cursed by Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai.”

Traditional Purim costumes reflect the various roles in the story of Esther. However, as Jewish organizations continue to make merry on this ancient holiday, new ideas arise—including cultural themes that tie Purim with the 21st century: themes like Harry Potter, “Star Wars” and Marvel superheroes have gained popularity in recent years.

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Categories: Jewish

Purim: Eat, drink and be merry! Jews celebrate a feast for Esther

baking sheet with triangle-shaped pastries filled with jam

Hamentaschen, or Haman’s pockets, are a popular treat for Purim. Photo by ulterior epicure, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23: Synagogues resonate with the sounds of hissing, booing and stomping, today, in celebration of the Jewish festival of Purim. One of the most joyous festivals of the year, the story behind Purim evolved from an ancient plot to destroy the Jewish people and ended with Jewish victory and a renowned queen.

Today, Jews eagerly listen to readings from the Book of Esther, “blotting out” the name of the Jewish enemy—Haman—with noisemakers and clomping.

Purple and gold mask on top of Jewish text

Photo in public domain

STORY OF PURIM

The story of Purim is found in the pages of the book of Esther, in the Hebrew scriptures of the Bible. When the beautiful young Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, she hid her Jewish identity. The king’s advisor, Haman, hatched a plot to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom.

Did you know? The name of G_d is not mentioned in the book of Esther, and many Jews interpret this as indication that G_d works in ways that are not always apparent. On Purim, disguises and costumes serve as symbolism of G_d “hidden” behind the scenes.

Though Haman had already convinced King Ahasuerus to kill the Jews in Persia, Esther fasted for three days, approached the king and revealed her own Jewish identity, pleading with the king to save the Jewish population. Out of his love for Esther, the king hung Haman and his 10 sons, instead, on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai. The Jewish people in Persia were saved from the plot of Haman.

PURIM TODAY

To this day, many Jews still observe the Fast of Esther from dawn to dusk today. With the start of Purim, fruit-filled cookies are served, plenty of wine is consumed and comical skits entertain jovial audiences. In many Jewish communities, outrageous costumes add to the fun.

Food for Purim: Purim’s signature cookies are known as Hamantaschen, or “Haman’s pockets.” Seeds and nuts serve as a reminder that Queen Esther ate these while serving as queen, since she had no access to kosher food. Additionally, adult Jews are instructed to drink wine until they can no longer “distinguish between arur Haman (‘Cursed is Haman’) and baruch Mordechai (‘Blessed is Mordecai’).

Recipes! Our Feed The Spirit department features much more about Purim by Bobbie Lewis and includes a delicious recipe for Purim’s signature cookie: Hamentaschen. (Sometimes spelled with an “e” or an “a”—”Hamen …” or “Hamantaschen.”)

An array of Purim recipes can also be found at AllRecipes. Thirsty? Try making your own apricot-infused bourbon for Purim.

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Categories: Jewish