Adapted from Purim on the Net
Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays, a time of prizes,
noisemakers, costumes and treats. The Festival of Purim commemorates
a major victory over oppression and is recountered in the Megillah,
the scroll of the story of Esther (in the bible).
Celebrated the 14th night of the Jewish month of Adar (Hebrew
Calendar), Usually in March.
The story of Purim
In the third year of his reign, the King of Persia, Ahashverosh
(also known as Ahasuerus and Ahashuerus) decided to have a feast. It
was on the seventh day of these festivities that the King summoned
his queen, Vashti, to appear before him and demonstrate her beauty
for the King's officials. Vashti refused to appear.
(According to the Talmud, G-d afflicted her with leprosy to cause
her downfall and Esther's rise.) Incensed, the King asked his
officers for a suitable punishment. One advisor, Memuchan (some
think he was was actually Haman), argued that Vashti should be
killed for her disobedience. The King took his advice and Vashti was
As time passed the King desired a new queen. To find a suitable wife,
a contest was initiated among all the eligible girls in the kingdom.
One of those was Esther, a Jewish girl. Esther had been raised by
her uncle Mordechai after her parents' death. Mordechai instructed
Esther not to divulge her Jewishness when she went to meet the king.
Each day Mordechai walked by the court and inquired as to her well
being. Esther impressed all who met her, including the King, and she
was elevated to queen.
Years later the King elevated Haman , a descendant of Amelak, the
traditional enemy of the Jews, to the position of chief advisor.
Haman was a wicked and vain man who expected everyone to bow down to
him. Mordechai refused to bow because Jews are to bow only before
G-D. Not content to just punish Mordechai, Haman wanted to destroy
the entire Jewish population in Persia. He cast lots or PURIM to determine
the day of annihilation.
Haman went to the King, slandered the Jews, and convinced the King
to go along with his plans. Upon learning of the plot, Mordechai
tore his clothes, wore sack-cloth and ashes, and walked through the
city crying loudly. When Esther heard of Mordechai's display she
dispatched a messenger to discover what was troubling her uncle.
Mordechai recounted the details of the evil decree and instructed
Esther to intercede on the Jews behalf. Esther agreed to appear
before the King and instructed Mordechai to organize a three-day
fast for all the Jews on her behalf.
After completing the three-day fast, Esther entered the king's inner
court dressed in her most royal garb. The King inquired as to
Esther's desires. Esther replied that she wished to invite the King
and Haman to a banquet. After the feast Esther asked the King and
Haman to return for another banquet the next night. Haman left the
banquet consumed with self importance and pride, but these feelings
were turned to anger when he saw Mordechai. Haman went home, and his
wife, Zeresh, advised him to construct a gallows. Haman joyously
acted upon the suggestion.
That night, the King discovered that Mordechai had never been
rewarded for saving him from the assassination plot of two servants.
When Haman appeared in the court, the King decided that his trusted
servant should determine Mordechai's compensation. Haman, intending
to obtain the King's permission to hang Mordechai, unwittingly answered
the King's questions. The King asked Haman, "What should be done
for the man the King wishes to reward?" Haman, believing that
Ahashverosh intended to reward him, replied that the honoree should
be dressed in royal clothing, ride upon a royal horse. And be led
through the city streets by an official proclaiming "This is what is
done to the man the King wishes to honor"
Ahashverosh agreed and instructed Haman to carry it out for
Mordechai. Crestfallen, Haman followed the King's orders. Haman's
daughter, mistakenly believing that her father was being led by Mordechai,
dumped garbage on her father, the horses' leader.
At Esther's second banquet Haman's downfall continued. Esther
revealed Haman's villainous plot and the fact that she was Jewish.
She asked the King to "grant me my soul and my people." Ahashverosh
consumed with anger ordered that Haman be hanged on the gallows
intended for Mordechai. The King elevated Mordechai to a position of
great influence and allowed him to issue edicts permitting the Jews
to fight their enemies. On the thirteenth and fourteenth of Adar the
Jews won tremendous victories and were saved from the threat of total
Ever since, Jews have observered Purim. The day before Purim is a
day of fasting, in memory of Esther's fast. The fast is then
followed by two days of dancing, merrymaking, feasting and gladness.
adapted from The Education Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel- Purim Page
Mishlo'ah Manot (shelakhmones) and Gifts to the Poor
The custom of sending gifts (Mishlo'ah Manot) leaves its special
mark on Purim. Throughout Purim, men and women, young people and
children throng the streets, bearing plates, baskets and trays
filled with choicest Purim goodies and covered with a fine
embroidered napkin. Many of these "messengers" are in disguise and
this adds a special beauty to the Purim atmosphere.
In contemporary Israel, there is a family, neighborhood and even
national flavor to Mishlo'ah Manot. They are sent, for
instance, to IDF soldiers serving at the front, to border
settlements and the needy. Children exchange symbolic
Mishlo'ah Manot in the schools, for their enjoyment. There are some
who make Mishlo'ah Manot into a parodic, humoristic shpil.
Noise-making upon Mention of Haman's Name
There is a special atmosphere in the synagogue during the Megillah
reading. Many of the worshippers bring their own kosher Megillot
[scrolls], written on parchment, in strict accordance with halakhah -
for fear that otherwise, they might miss a word or two of the
reading; they can thus supply the missing word silently from their
own Megillah, fulfilling the mitzvah [precept] of hearing it in its
Children in various disguises grasp all kinds of noise- making utensils,
sticks, rattles, Purim pistols and so on, and begin to drown out the
name of Haman whenever the reader pronounces the name. Sticks are
beaten, rattles are waved, and ear-splitting explosive noises come
from the Purim pistols. The tremendous tumult adds to the general
joy and gaiety. The reader waits until the noise dies down in order
to continue the Megillah reading until the next "Haman".
One way of making noise is a Gragger ("Ra'ashan").
Click on it to read all about this toy!
Special Purim foods
Hamantashen - the most widespread food on Purim is a special
pastry, popularly known as Hamantashen. This is a triangular piece
of dough, usually filled with sweetened poppy seeds. The origin of
the name is unclear and there are various theories. Some people say
that Haman wore a three-cornered hat, and that is why the pocket of
dough is triangular. Others refer to the midrash that relates that
when Haman entered the King's treasury, he was bent over, covered
with shame, and humiliated (literally with clipped ears).
The source of the pastry was apparently poppy seed pockets called
"Mantashen". The name was intentionally distorted to "Haman tash" -
pockets of Haman. It is a mitzvah to devour Haman with open mouth.
Besides Hamantashen, biscuits made of sugar and sweet starch are
also widespread on Purim.
How about a Hamantaschen Recipe?
Purim Challah - A special, very large challah with raisins is
baked for the Purim meal. Cakes are also baked, that have been
kneaded with oil and butter, smeared with egg yolk and decorated
with chocolate and sweets.
Purim fish - fish are not prepared on Purim in the same way
as for the other festivals. They are usually cooked in vinegar,
raisins and spices.
Seeds - several ancient sources make mention of the custom of
eating seeds on the eve of Purim in memory of Esther who ate only
seeds in the King's palace. This is also the source of the custom of
filling the Hamantashen with poppy seeds.
Beans and cereals. In many places people ate beans and cereal
on Purim, in memory of the piety of Esther, who ate no forbidden
foods in Achashverosh's palace but only cereals. There may also be a
reference here to affliction and mourning, which are symbolized by
cereals and beans.
Turkey - it is customary to eat turkey ("tarnegol hodu") on
Purim, in memory of Achashverosh who reigned from India ("Hodu") to
Ethiopia. It is well-known that the turkey was considered a symbol
of foolishness in the European nations, and among the Jews in general,
and there is a reference to Achashverosh's foolishness here.
The custom of wearing disguises on Purim is extremely ancient.
In our times, the most conspicuous external revelation of Purim is
the wearing of fancy dress, mainly by children, although adolescents
and adults do sometimes dress up in public or to participate in a
Here are several examples of costumes:
I dressed up as a ballerina when I was a little kid.
I dressed up as a queen or princess several times too.
A fairy princess costume is a good option too...
You can dress as a king if you are a boy....
I once dressed up as a "Night Queen" too....when I was really little.
- Tastey Treats for Purim
- Purim on the Net
The story of Purim, what is a Gragger, costumes and masks, Real Audio music, recipes.
- Purim from The Education Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel
GREAT site, containing EVERYTHING you need to know about Purim, including suggested activities from teachers or youth group leaders.
- VirtualJerusalem Purim Page
learn about the holidays, read the Megillah, have fun at the kids corner, send cards, read jokes, and many more :-)
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