Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. Purim is one of the most fun and
joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia
were saved from extermination. joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when
he Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.
The story of Purim comes from the Book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish
woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordechai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahashuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahashuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the King did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordechai told her not to reveal her identity.
The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the King. Haman hated Mordechai 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 your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people's, and they do not observe the King's laws; therefore it is not befitting the King to tolerate 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.
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 Purim holiday is preceded by a fast day, 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 scroll. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle groggers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot out the name of Haman." In addition, many Jews send gifts of food or drink, and make gifts to charity, known as shalach manot. A common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen. 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.