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About Purim

About Purim
Item# purim
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Purim


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.

The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther .

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.

The Purim story is told at the Book of Esther .


Purim-adloiada

The Book of Esther commences with a six month (180 day) drinking feast given by king Ahashverosh, for the army of Persia and Media, for the civil servants and princes in the 127 provinces of his kingdom, at the conclusion of which a seven day drinking feast for the inhabitants of Shushan, rich and poor with a separate drinking feast for the women organised by the Queen Vashti in the pavilion of the Royal courtyard.

At this feast Ahashverosh gets thoroughly drunk and orders his wife Vashti to display her beauty before the people and the princess by dancing naked. She refuses, and Ahashverosh decides to remove her from her post.

He then orders all young women to be presented to him, so he can choose a new queen to replace Vashti.

One of these is Esther (Haddassah, who changed her name to Esther so that the king wouldn't know she was Jewish), who was orphaned at a young age and was being fostered by her cousin Mordechai .

purim-raashan

She finds favor in the king's eyes, and is made his new wife. Esther does not reveal that she is Jewish. Esther was taken to the house of Ahashverosh, King of Persia, to become part of his harem, and he loved her more than his other women and made her queen. But the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordechai told her not to reveal her nationality.



The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordechai 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 thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it does not profit the king to suffer 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.

purim-esther

Mordechai 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 Mordechai.



The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the bible that does not contain the name of G-d. In fact, it includes virtually no reference to G-d. Mordechai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that it the closest the book comes to mentioning G-d. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that G-d often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March.

The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre.

The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.

The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means a scroll.

Purim-poster

It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers - raashanim) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to “blot out the name of Haman.”

We are also commanded 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 Mordechai ”.

In addition, we are commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as Mishloach Manot

Among Ashkenazic Jews, a common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen (lit. Haman's pockets). These triangular fruit-filled cookies are supposed to represent Haman's three-cornered hat.

It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, to perform plays and parodies, and to hold beauty contests.



Mishloach manot


Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, snacks and other foodstuffs given as mishloach manot on Purim day.

The Book of Esther prescribes "the sending of portions one man to another, and gifts to the poor" (9:22). Over time, this mitzvah has become one of the most prominent features of the celebration of Purim.

Masquerading


Most evidence suggests that the concept of "masquerading in costumes" (on Purim) is a fairly recent addition to Purim, which was added sometime during the past five hundred years - in Europe. The practice probably did not exist in Middle Eastern countries earlier than 150 years ago.

Dressing up in masks and costumes is one of the most entertaining customs of the Purim holiday. Children in particular enjoy dressing up as the protagonists in the Book of Esther, including Queen Esther and Mordecai; other Biblical personalities such as King David and the Kohen Gadol ("High Priest"), and modern-day costumes from flower girls to indigenous peoples of the Americas to animals to policemen.

Costumes and masks are worn to disguise the wearers' identities. Mistaken identity plays an important role in The Book of Esther, as Esther hid her cultural origins from the king, Mordecai hid his knowledge of all the world's languages (which allowed Bigthan and Teresh to discuss their plot openly in his presence), and Haman was mistaken for Mordechai when he led Mordecai through the streets of the capital city of Shushan.

The custom of masquerading on Purim was first introduced among the Italian Jews about the close of the fifteenth century under the influence of the Roman carnival. This custom spread over all countries where Jews lived, except perhaps the Orient. The first among Jewish authors to mention this custom is Judah ben Eliezer ha-Levi Minz (d. 1508 at Venice) , quoted by Moses Isserles on Orach Chayim 696:8. He expresses the opinion that, since the purpose of the masquerade is only merrymaking, it should not be considered a transgression of the Biblical law regarding dress. Although some authorities issued prohibitions against this custom, the people did not heed them, and the more lenient view prevailed. The custom is still practiced today amongst religious Jews of all denominations, and among both religious and non-religious Israelis.

In Israel there are Purim parades called Adloyada (Ad-̣ă Lo-́à Yada-éặ, Until one didn't know the other). The name refers to the drinking feast described in the book of Ester, after which the guests couldn't tell their friends apart from the other attenders. In these Parades men, women, boys and girls dress in costumes and masks and celebrate publicly.

The holiday of Purim has been held in high esteem by Judaism at all times; some have held that when all the prophetical and hagiographical works will be nullified, the Book of Esther will still be remembered, and, accordingly, the Feast of Purim will continue to be observed (Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1/5a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Megilla).

Like Hanukkah, Purim has more of a national than a religious character, and its status as a holiday is on a lesser level than those days ordained holy by the Torah. Accordingly, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim, though in certain places restrictions have been imposed on work (Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Chayim, 696). A special prayer ("Al ha-Nissim"—"For the Miracles") is inserted into the Amidah during evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as is included in the Birkat Hamazon ("Grace after Meals.")

The four main mitzvot of the day are:

1. Listening to the public reading, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Esther in the evening and again in the following morning (k'riat megilla) 2. Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot) 3. Giving charity to the poor (matanot la'evyonim) 4. Eating a festive meal (se`udah)

Giving of food gifts and charity

Mishloach manot

Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, snacks and other foodstuffs given as mishloach manot on Purim day.

The Book of Esther prescribes "the sending of portions one man to another, and gifts to the poor" (9:22). Over time, this mitzvah has become one of the most prominent features of the celebration of Purim.

According to the halakha, each Jew over the age of bar or bat mitzvah must send two different, ready-to-eat foods to one friend, and two charitable donations (either money or food) to two poor people, to fulfill these two mitzvot.[36] The gifts to friends are called mishloach manot ("sending of portions"), and often include wine and pastries; alternately, sweets, snacks, salads or any foodstuff qualifies.

Although the sending of mishloach manot is technically limited to one gift for one friend, for some the custom has evolved into a major gift-giving event. Families often prepare dozens of homemade and store-bought food baskets to deliver to friends, neighbors, and relatives on Purim day. Charitable organizations, synagogues, Jewish schools and other groups also tap into the spirit of gift-giving by turning mishloach manot into a fund-raising device. These organizations collect money from members and either send out actual food gifts to other members, or mishloach manot "certificates" which indicate that a donation has been made to their organization.

To fulfill the mitzvah of giving charity to two poor people, one can give either food or money equivalent to the amount of food that is eaten at a regular meal. It is better to spend more on charity than on the giving of mishloach manot.[36]

In the synagogue, regular collections of charity are made on the festival and the money is distributed among the needy. No distinction is made among the poor; anyone who is willing to accept charity is allowed to participate. It is obligatory upon the poorest Jew, even one who is himself dependent on charity, to give to other poor people.[36]



Children's Songs




Both before and on Purim, special children's songs (with non-liturgical sources) may be sung:

* Once There Was a Wicked Wicked Man

* Ani Purim

* Chag Purim, Chag Purim, Chag Gadol Hu LaYehudim

* MisheNichnas Adar

* Shoshanas Yaakov

* Al HaNisim

* VeNahafoch Hu

* LaYehudim Hayesa Orah

* U Mordechai Yatza

* Kacha Yay'aseh

* Chayav Inish

* Utzu Eitzah






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