10 March 2017

Purim ~ פורים

Shops are full of fancy dress costumes which rather resemble Madame Tussauds Museum of wax works in London

A religious festival called Purim will be celebrated in Israel starting at sunset on the
 11th March and ending at sunset on the 12th March.  As far as religious festivals go, this is definitely the most intriguing that I have so far come across.  To a non-Jewish outsider like me, it looks like a massive fancy dress party with a convivial, jolly atmosphere and merrymaking.  However, I'm sure there is more to it than that which is why I carried out research on the internet to try and find the origins of Purim and why people wear elaborate costumes on the Jewish holiday of Purim. According to Wikipedia, Purim "is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (מגילת אסתרMegillat Ester in Hebrew).  According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus/Achashverosh (presumed to be Artaxerxes I of Persia)  planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.  Based on the conclusions of the Scroll of Esther (Esther 9:22): "[...] that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor," Purim is celebrated among Jews by: 
  • Exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot
  • Donating charity to the poor known as mattanot la-evyonim
  • Eating a celebratory meal known as a se'udat Purim
  • Public recitation ("reading of the megillah") of the Scroll of Esther, known as kriat ha-megillah, usually in synagogue
  • Reciting additions, known as Al HaNissim, to the daily prayers and the grace after meals

Other customs include drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.  Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of  Adar (and on Adar II in Hebrew leap years that take place every 2 to 3 years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of the Biblical Joshua Purim is instead celebrated on the 15th of the month of Adar on what is known as Shushan Purim, since fighting in the walled city of Shushan continued through the 14th day of Adar. Today, only Jerusalem and a few other cities celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar."

Just out of interest, I am also including a link to the website of Madame Tussauds in London as for me, people wearing Purim costumes in the streets of Tel Aviv is reminiscent of an outing to this museum.

 Happy holidays חג שמח

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