This month we celebrate the festival of Purim, a traditional festival that comes to us from the biblical account of the story of Esther - the Queen who saved her people from the hand of a murderous enemy. You may have heard the old, humorous 'quip' about Jewish festivals as regards their history, "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat!" It is humorous but with a dark edge. Time after time, and again in the story of Esther, God miraculously delivers His people from the hands of almost certain death. The Hebrew word 'Purim' means 'lots'. According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews.
The book of Esther tells us, "Mordecai recorded these events and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor" (Est.9:20-22). When the community gathers to celebrate Purim we sit together with family and friends, sing Jewish songs, tell the story of Purim, and be merry! We read aloud the "Whole Magillah” (the entire book of Esther) together, make lots of noise and eat a wonderful, festive meal. At the sound of Haman's name we shout "Boo!” and rattle our "Graggers" (noise makers) and stomp our feet to drown his name out!! We make special cookies called “Hamentaschen”, a triangle shaped pastry stuffed with apricots, prunes, and even chocolate.
We dress in costumes and come in "disguise" to Purim parties. Why the disguise? This tradition carries a colorful history from 16th century Europe. The idea is that God’s name is not mentioned in the entire book of Esther, therefore He is "in disguise". Yet He is ever present! You might also note that Esther and Mordecai were in disguise as well - hiding their Jewish identity for fear of death. It is the 'unmasking' of Esther and the courage of both Esther and Mordecai that make it possible for God to step in and work a miraculous deliverance from otherwise certain death at the hands of the evil Haman.
Purim is a national Traditional holiday, held in high esteem by Judaism at all times, although on a lesser level than those days ordained holy by the Torah. Accordingly, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim. Also, the bible gives Gentiles in the community ample evidence that they may also participate with the Jewish people in celebrating this holiday: “Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, the Jews established and made a custom for themselves, and for their descendants, and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they should not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation, and according to their appointed time annually. “Est.9:26-28
Therefore, as the Scripture says, for all those who are allied with them, let us rejoice and praise God for the preservation of His people, that we might take nourishment from the root of the olive tree. Here's wishing everyone a hearty "Chag Purim Sameach!" Happy Purim!!
Fun Craft for the kids: CLICK HERE to make this fun Purim Gragger