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Haddy the Hebrew: What you need to know about Purim

Purim is a Jewish holiday that will be starting Wednesday night this year and ending the night of Thursday. Purim is a very popular holiday among the Jewish community but is often something with which non-Jews are not familiar. So, what is Purim all about? 

Purim is a commemoration of the Jewish people of Persia (a very large ancient civilization) being saved from an evil man named Haman, who sought to kill all of the Jews in the land. The story can be found in “Megillat Esther” or “The Book of Esther,” which is a book that is a part of the Tanakh, the Jewish canon. 

Although the story is very old, it is incredible and holds a lot of valuable lessons. The story goes that King Achashverosh was the king of Persia, and Haman was his second in command. Haman decided he wanted to kill every Jew in the land because a Jewish man named Mordechai would not bow down to him. This is significant because, in Judaism, no one is to be worshipped except for G-D. Bowing to someone is considered to be worshipping them, so Mordechai would not bow. 

King Achashverosh agrees to Haman’s plan, but it is foiled by Mordechai’s quick wit and his cousin Esther’s masterful planning. Esther is entered into a pageant and becomes King Achashverosh’s wife, making her queen of Persia. She hides her Jewish identity until she is able to convince her new husband that to destroy the Jewish people would be evil and that Haman should be put to death.

King Achashverosh cannot change a royal decree, however so, instead, the Jewish people are told to fight back against anyone who would try to carry out Haman’s plan. The day that was originally decreed to be the date of Jewish destruction turned into a day of Jewish resilience and is now commemorated thousands of years later.

Purim is set in the month of Adar, a month in which the Jewish people are commanded to be happy. Because the Jewish people came very close to not existing at all on this date, we are meant to be extra joyful and triumphant in the month of this holiday. The commandments of how Purim is supposed to be celebrated includes exchanging gifts of food and beverages, donating to the poor, eating a Purim feast, hearing or reading the Megillah and additional prayers that proclaim the triumph of Purim as a miracle.

Although not commanded, it is also customary to dress up in costumes for Purim. This is because Esther concealed her Jewish identity, so on Purim, we pay homage to this by “concealing” our own identities as well. This practice has sometimes earned Purim the nickname of “Jewish Halloween,” although the only similarity between the two holidays is the dress-up tradition. Traditionally, people have dressed up as characters from the Purim story, like Esther and King Achashverosh but, in modern times, the costumes found at a Purim party can be anything.

Another Purim tradition is making and eating hamantaschen, a triangular cookie that usually contains a jelly or chocolate filling. The original concept of these cookies varies throughout different communities, with some saying the shape is in reference to Haman’s three-cornered hat, some saying they are meant to resemble his ears and some even saying the cookies look like Haman’s pockets. No matter the personal tradition, the cookies are attributed to Haman, and the act of eating them is like squashing his name and evil doings out once more. 

Purim, for all of its traditions and its wonderful story, is many Jewish people’s favorite holiday. It is one that is filled with joy, celebration, good food and fun times. This holiday is truly a special one and one that I hope you have a better understanding of now. 

Hadass Galili is a junior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.

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