The Jewish holiday is coming up...
1. Purim is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the redemption of the Jewish people from the evil Haman's plot to destroy them in Persia. It's based on the Book of Esther.
2. The holiday is celebrated with a lot of fun and silliness, involving costumes, noise-makers, and food.
3. There are four important mitzvot, commandments, that are required for the holiday.
4. First is to hear the Megillah, the Book of Esther, read aloud. This is usually a lot of fun -- we read the whole story or sometimes tell it in a "Purim Spiel", a play that tells the story. When we hear the name of Haman, everyone makes a lot of noise using their graggers (noisemakers of all kinds), to "blot out" the name of the evil man who tried to kill all the Jews in Persia.
5. Second is to celebrate with a Purim Seudah, a Purim meal and party. What could be better than a holiday that requires a party? We usually celebrate with a Purim Carnival, which is a lot of fun for everyone involved!
6. Third is the requirement to send Mishloach Manot, gifts of food and treats that are sent to friends and family. It is a lot of fun to do and a wonderful way for me as a Jewish girl to make use of all the fun holiday treat ideas that I bookmarked back in November/December...in preparation for Purim!
7. Fourth is the requirement for Matanot L'Evyonim - gifts of money or food to support the poor. This is such a wonderful part of every Jewish holiday, making sure that even those who are in need can celebrate on this day.
8. The day before Purim is the Fast of Esther, in which we recall how Esther fasted before she approached the king to ask for his help. Some women have taken this day as an opportunity to remember those women who are trapped in marriages without the ability to get an Jewish divorce. These women are known as agunot, chained women, as their hands are tied by the rabbinic courts, which won't give the divorce without the consent of their husbands. Read more about agunot here and here, and here is one event in Jerusalem in honor of Yom ha-Agunot.
9. One of the most well-known Purim treats is the hamantashen, a three-cornered filled pastry. Yum!
10. Every year my mom makes a million hamatashen, using my great-aunt Dora's recipe. In 1976, my mom followed my Aunt Dora around and measured after she put it all in the bowl in order to "capture" the recipe. And you know what, it's a fantastic recipe. I even have some to take with me to Israel to my brother.
11. It's also customary to drink alcohol at Purim celebrations, "ad lo yada..." "A person should drink on Purim until the point where they can't tell the difference between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman." (Talmud - Megillah 7a; Code of Jewish Law 695:2) Obviously, alcohol should be used in moderation. I think this gives us the reminder that the holiday of Purim is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate for adults as well! Too often this holiday is relegated to a "children's celebration" but there is power in adults finding silliness in their lives once in a while too.
12. The Book of Esther has no mention of God in it. We remember God's "hiddenness" when we hide ourselves behind masks to celebrate this day. We remember that God's name may be hidden, but we are all God's agents in the world. Esther has to take matters into her own hands. Sometimes we have to remember that we are all created in the image of God, and we should act like it!
13. One of the most interesting characters in the Book of Esther is Vashti, the king's first wife, who refuses to dance naked for her drunk husband. She is replaced as the queen by the lovely young Esther. Vashti is a strong, powerful woman who isn't afraid to say no. Esther is also strong in her own right, as she stands up for her people when asked. This is a great holiday for rockin' female role models!
Hooray for Purim!
Check out this funny Purim Rap...
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