(English Index)

(Original Index)




During the festive holiday of Purim, the Jewish people celebrate their miraculous deliverance from annihilation. The Persian King Xerxes I (Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther) ruled over 127provinces that spread from India to Ethiopia in the 4th century BC. The diabolical scheme of Haman, whom the King appointed head of his princes, was to annihilate every Jewish man, woman and child in this very large kingdom.

On Purim, the Book of Esther is read in the synagogues in the evening service and again the next morning. Each time Haman's name is spoken, the congregation boos, stamps their feet and rattles their noise-makers to drown out his wicked name.

Though God's name is never mentioned in any of the 10 chapters, every detail of the story speaks of His sovereignty and faithfulness. The heroes are the wise Mordechai and his lovely cousin Esther, who is chosen queen in place of Vashti.

Esther exposes Haman's evil plot and then, on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar, all the enemies of the Jews were destroyed. In the cities surrounded by walls, like Susa (Esther 1:2), the struggle took one more day, until the 15th of Adar. Therefore, in Jerusalem (also surrounded by walls), Purim is celebrated one day later, on Shushan Purim. God reversed the lot (Pur in Persian) that should have been cast against the Jews, being was turned in their favour.

The custom is: Dressing in costumes and serving pastries in the shape of "Haman's Ears" (Oznei Haman in Hebrew, but known in the Diaspora by its Yiddish name, hamantashen). The delicious triangular-shaped pastries are filled with poppy seeds or jam. It is also customary to give friends and neighbours a mishloach manot – a plate with Oznei Haman, sweets and perhaps nuts and dried fruit (see Esther 9:22).