Well, today is the Purim, the feast of Esther. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the story, but if you’ve not read it recently, what better excuse to reread the book of Esther? It’s an easy read, and well worth the time. In the mean time, though, here’s some information about this holiday.
In Israel, the celebration of Purim is two days long, and a very big event. For those two days, everyone gorges themselves and the adults, primarily the men, drink. A lot. They say that by the end of the feast, they want to be so drunk that they “can’t tell Mordecai from Haman.” Purim is perhaps one of the most joyous of the Jewish holidays. Here in this country, however, it is observed a bit differently. While some household still hold big celebrations, for many it’s a much smaller party. For my family, the Jewish holidays are like any other, a time to celebrate our heritage, some great day in history, or what God has done. Here is an example of what we often do for the feast of Esther.
The children (this is actually the first year I wasn’t really involved) act through the Megillah, a play of the Esther story. The Megillah is often interactive. When the name of Ahasuerus is mentioned, the audience replies with “Huh?” The king in the story isn’t exactly always on top of things. When the name of Mordecai is spoken, the gives a dignified round of applause. They show appreciation without drowning out the name. When Esther is mentioned, everyone says “Aww” because of her youth and beauty. The roots of this tradition lie with Haman, though. Whenever his name is said, the audience boos and shouts. Some sort of small, handheld noisemaker is generally provided as well. The goal is to drown out the name of the wicked Haman.
Like any Jewish holiday, food is a big part of Purim. One Purim tradition is to send treats to friends, family, and neighbors. These gifts often include fruit, hamantaschen, and Haman’s ears. Hamantaschen are shortbread-like cookies folded into triangles with filling, often fruit, in the center. The word hamantaschen means “Haman’s hat,” the cookies get their name from the tradition that Haman wore a tricorn hat. Haman’s ears are strips of dough twisted to look like ears and fried, then rolled in sugar.
Of course this holiday is nothing to be legalistic about. Like any other festival commanded by God, it is a time for remembrance, and a time for joy. For me, Purim is a time to celebrate the hope that God can do something great with any one of us. Think about it. He used a little Jewish orphan girl living in a foreign land to save His people from destruction. If she could trust Him and do something like that, why shouldn’t we do great things through Him?