Purim - The Feast of Lots

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar or Adar Sheni, the last month of the year, and commemorates Israel’s deliverance from her enemies in Persia. In Shushan, the capital city of Persia, the celebration continued for two days because on the 14th the Jews of that city were still fighting their enemies and thus had to wait until the 15th day before they could celebrate, therefore, this day of celebration is, appropriately called, Shushan Purim. Purim means Lots and is used in reference to the "casting of lots" by Haman, the Prime Minister of King Ahasuerus, in order to determine the day on which the Jews should be expelled from Persia. By the arrangement of the calendar the Purim holiday cannot fall on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday.

The story of Purim is found in the Book of Esther, written between 480 and 460 BCE, by an unknown author, although some scholars ascribed it to Ezra. Esther is the Persian name for Hadassah and means Myrtle. The Purim festival is observed with special synagogue services on the eve and morning of the holiday. There is no Biblical command concerning prohibitions against work or the sanctity of the observance. The Reading of the Scroll Of Esther - Megillath Esther - is the chief feature of the holiday. It is read at the synagogue services. In the traditional synagogue the reading is usually chanted and continually interrupted with noisemakers or clappers at every mention of Haman’s name.

Fast of Esther: A fast is held on the day preceding Purim, from morning till evening, because Esther commanded all her people to fast before she approached the king.

Mishloach Manoth - Sending of Gifts: A long-established custom is the sending of gifts to the poor and the exchanging of gifts between friends.

Hamantasch: A three-cornered shaped pastry filled with poppy seed or jelly. The word is from the German and means a "Haman Pocket." Gregger Or Haman Clapper: A noisemaker used during the reading of the Megillah at every mention of Haman’s name.

Adloyada Carnival - from the Hebrew Till He Does Not Know The Difference: A popular custom of the Purim holiday is the masquerading at parties, especially for children in various costumes and singing Purim songs. The name derives from an old custom in which one is to have enough to drink till he would not know the difference between Haman and Mordechai.

Rabbinical Traditions Concerning Purim: Every adult and child is obligated to listen to the reading of the Megillath Esther on the evening and morning of the festival. On Purim one should give at least two gifts to a needy person. It is unlawful to fast on Purim day. Masquerading in male or female attire permitted only on the Purim holiday. Mourning for the dead must not take place on Purim. Shabbat or holiday clothes should be worn on Purim. Purim is not Halloween, the characters are real and we celebrate life not death. Purim represents God’s ultimate victory over Israel’s enemies.

And thus we come full circle and once again look forward to the festival of Passover.

Have a blessed year!


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