What is Purim

purim-hebrew

Source: thebayit.org

Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays in Judaism.  It is a time to celebrate and commemorate the salvation the Jews received.  In ancient Persia the prime minister order the execution to kill every Jew in the empire.  His plot was “to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

 

The Purim holiday is celebrate annually on the 14th of Adar, a Hebrew month.  In the Gregorian calendar, Purim happens around late winter/early spring.  Sometimes there are two Adar months in the Hebrew calendar.  If that happens Purim is celebrated in the second Adar month because Purim is meant to happen one month before Passover.

 

The word Purim is ancient Persian for the word “lots.”  This is why Purim is named Purim.  It is after Haman’s plan to have all of the Jews killed.

 

There are many ways to say Purim and is pronounced differently depending on the region of the world.  In Eastern countries it is said poo-REEM.  In the Western countries people will say PUH-rim.  Though in some Central-European countries it is pronounced PEE-rim.

 

History of Purim and Significance

During the 4th century, the Persian Empire stretched over 127 lands.  Any Jews in the lands were subjects to the empire.  The king at the time was King Ahasuerus.

 

During one of his parties he ordered his wife to attend during the banquet so he could show off her beauty.  Queen Vashti refused to follow the king’s orders that night.  Later King Ahasuerus ordered to have his wife executed after she refused to listen to his orders.  In order to find a new queen the king held a beauty pageant.

 

In the end, King Ahasuerus favored a Jewish girl named Esther.  He made her the new queen, but she refused to tell him what her nationality was.  The king also appointed a new prime minister to the empire, Haman.  Haman openly hated Jewish people and it was unknown at this time that new queen was Jewish.

 

There was a meeting between the prime minster and Mordechai.  Mordechai at the time was the leader of the Jews in the empire and Esther’s cousin.  During the meeting Mordechai refused to follow the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman.  Haman was outraged and convinced the King to order a decree that called for the extermination of all Jews on the 13th of Adar.

 

When Mordechai heard of the news he convinced the Jews to act.  The Jews began to repent, fast, and pray to God for help and safety.  Esther knew she had to tell the truth to the king and called for a feast and have King Ahasuerus and Haman join her.

 

As they sat and ate Esther told the king that she was Jewish.  The king ordered for Haman to be hanged after the news.  Mordechai was appointed to be prime minister of the Persian Empire.  Haman’s old order of killing the Jews was stopped and in its place a new decree was instated.

 

The new decree allowed the Jews to fight back and defend themselves against their enemies.  On the 13th of Adar the Jews fought back and killed their enemies.  The day after the Jews rested and celebrated their victory.

 

Purim celebrates the miracle that the Jewish people survived against their enemies.  Even though God was never mentioned directly in the story, it is assumed He was helping the Jews along the way.  It showed that God’s is involved in every aspect of the world even if His name is not mentioned.

 

Haman’s orders to have the Jews killed actually revived the Jewish spirit.  It compelled Jews to accept the Torah and come together because they were all so scatted across the Persian Empire.

 

Traditions

It is custom to read the Book of Esther on the eve and day of Purim.  It is to remind the Jewish people of the miracle and God’s involvement in everything.

 

Everyone who observes Purim is to give money to at least two poor people who need it.  It is also traditional to send two kinds of food as a gift to at least one person.  It is always open to give and donate more to people who need it.

 

On Purim eve everyone fasts.  This is to commemorate Esther’s fast and prays to God to save the Jewish people.  On the day of Purim there is a large feast that often has wine or other alcoholic beverages.  Children and adults will dress up in costumes and the traditional hamantaschen is served.  The hamantaschen is a three-cornered pastry that is filled with poppy see and a another sweet filling.

 

Unlike most Jewish holidays, Purim’s miracle was disguised in natural events.  That is why adults and children where costumes to celebrate.  It is thought that if king’s wife never died and he remarried a Jewish woman, the Jews would have never been saved.

 

When Mordechai was appointed to prime minister he was dressed in royal garments.  Costumes may be worn for that reason also.  No matter the reason for the costumes people are free to dress up as whatever they like.  Some people may choose to go traditional and dress as people from the Book of Esther.  Purim costumes are like Halloween costumes.