This week is the Jewish holiday of Purim

Talia Meadows
Photo byCarla Paton (author)

Starting at sunset, the Jewish holiday of Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (usually in late February or early March). The holiday memorializes the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia, as told in the biblical Book of Esther.

The story of Purim is centered around Esther, a Jewish woman who becomes queen to King Ahasuerus of Persia. Esther’s cousin, Mordechai, discovers a plot by the king’s advisor, Haman, to exterminate all Jews in the kingdom. Through a series of events, Esther reveals her Jewish identity to the king and convinces him to foil Haman’s plot, saving the Jews from destruction.

On Purim, Jews commemorate their salvation by reading the Book of Esther, also known as the Megillah, in synagogues or at home. The Megillah is read aloud in a unique melody, and the congregation participates by making noise and booing whenever Haman’s name is mentioned.

Another important aspect of Purim is giving mishloach manot, or Purim baskets. Jews are encouraged to send baskets of food or drink to friends and family and donate to charity. The baskets are meant to promote unity and friendship within the community and ensure that everyone has enough to eat on the holiday.

Purim is also known for its festive atmosphere and costumes. Children and adults dress up in costumes, often as characters from the Purim story or other historical figures. This tradition is believed to have originated because Esther disguised her Jewish identity to become queen.

In addition to the Megillah reading and mishloach manot, Purim is celebrated with a festive meal and drinking of alcohol. The Talmud, a collection of Jewish law and tradition, teaches that Jews should drink until they can no longer distinguish between the phrases “blessed be Mordechai” and “cursed be Haman.”

Overall, Purim is a joyous holiday that celebrates Esther's bravery and the Jewish people's salvation. In addition, through its various customs and traditions, Purim promotes community, charity, and unity among Jews worldwide.

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