PURIM - THE FESTIVAL OF ESTHER Thursday 25th February 2021
Purim is the Jewish carnival of happiness, commemorating the rescue of the Jewish people during the ancient Persian Empire from the evil Haman (a descendant of the Jewish archenemy, Amalek) who tried “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” (Esther 3:13).
The story is recorded in Megillat Esther. The word “purim” means “lots” in ancient Persian and became the name of the festival because Haman drew lots to determine when he would carry out his plot.
The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and Jews were spread across the Empire. When King Achashverosh had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl named Esther found favour in his eyes and became the new queen, but she hid her nationality.
Meanwhile, the Jew-hating Haman was appointed Prime Minister of the Empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews, refused to bow to Haman, which was in defiance of the royal decree. Haman was furious, and he persuaded the King to issue a decree ordering the destruction of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date randomly chosen by drawing lots.
Mordechai urged Esther to confront the King and inform him of Haman’s plans. Esther, although reluctant at first for fear of her life, agreed. She asked Mordechai to gather all the Jews in Shushan and convince them to spend three days repenting, fasting, and praying to God.
On the third day, Esther invited the King and Haman to join her for a feast. At a second feast, Esther revealed her Jewish identity to the King and accused Haman of attempting to destroy her people. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed Prime Minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.
On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilised and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar instead of the 14th. Today, this only applies to the city of Jerusalem, which celebrates “Shushan Purim” the day after all other Jewish communities.
There are four mitzvot on the day of Purim, and they all begin with the letter M (or mem in Hebrew). These are:
• The reading of the Megillah (the Book of Esther), which tells the story of the Purim miracle. We listen to the Megillah-reading once on the night of Purim and then again on the following day.
• Matanot La-Evyonim – giving money gifts to at least two poor people.
• Mishloach Manot – sending gifts of two kinds of ready-to-eat food to at least one person.
• Mishteh – a festive Purim feast, which often includes wine or other intoxicating beverages (Seudat Purim).
There is a general spirit of liveliness and fun on Purim that is unparalleled in the Jewish calendar. It is also customary for children especially (but adults also if they desire) to dress up in costumes. This is because the role of God is hidden in the story of Purim (and in fact even the name of God is starkly missing from the Megillah).
A traditional Purim food is Hamantaschen (three-cornered pastries bursting with sweet fillings such as poppy seeds). “Taschen” means “pockets” in Yiddish and German, but some believe these pastries represent Haman’s favourite three-cornered hat, and in Hebrew we call them “Oznay Haman”, meaning “Haman’s ears”!
On the day before Purim (or on the Thursday before, when Purim is on Sunday), it is customary for those over Bar and Bat Mitzvah age to fast. This commemorates Esther leading the people in fasting and praying to God that He save His people.
WE WILL CELEBRATE
Thursday 25th February 2021
AT BEIT ARIEL
3 Roodehek Street, Gardens
AT 18h00 (promptly)
IT WILL BE A FANCY DRESS CELEBRATION AND ALTHOUGH IT OCCURS DURING THE WEEK, WE WILL HAVE A SHORT SERVICE THAT WILL BE GEARED TOWARD THE KIDS. THIS WILL ENSURE THAT YOUR KIDS WILL BE HOME BY 19H30.
THEIR WILL BE NO MEAL AFTERWARD SO AS TO ENCOURAGE SOCIAL DISTANCING.
If you wish to attend our celebration, please do register: firstname.lastname@example.org