The Jewish Holiday of Purim is a celebration which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a Persian Empire official who was planning to kill all of the Jews, as told in the Book of Esther.
Purim, the Hebrew word for “lots”, is a celebratory Jewish festival which commemorates the survival of the Jewish people, who in the 5th century, where marked for death by their Persian rulers. This year’s Purim will begin in the evening of Thursday, 25th February and will end on Friday, 26th February.
Purim commemorates Esther’s courage in saving the Jewish people living in Persia 2000 years ago.
The story is told in the biblical book of Esther. The story begins with Haman, Chief Minister of King Ahasuerus, convincing the king that the Jews living under Persian rule would rebel and should be slaughtered, after being angered by Mordecai, a Jew.
Once Esther, the much-loved Jewish queen of Ahasuerus and adopted daughter of Mordecai, found out about the planned massacre, she risked her life by going uninvited to the king in order to suggest a banquet that Haman would attend.
At the banquet, Esther pleaded on behalf of the Jews and accused Haman of plotting the annihilation of her people. Troubled by this news, the king stepped out into the palace gardens.
When the king returned, he found Haman “falling on the couch where Esther was.” The king mistook Haman’s desperate pleas for mercy as an attack upon his queen and proceeded to order Haman to be hanged and for Mordecai to take his place.
Esther then obtained a royal order which allowed Jews throughout the empire to attack their enemies and following an exhilarating victory, they declared the following day a holiday and named it Purim.
Purim itself is celebrated by exchanging gifts of food and drink, known as mishloch manot, and donating to charity, known as mattanot la-evyonim.
A celebratory meal is also enjoyed which is known as se’udat Purim where traditional triangular shaped foods such as kreplach (pasta triangles filled with beef or chicken) and hamantashen pastries (triangle pastry dough with a filling of dates or poppy seeds).
Public recitations of the Scroll of Esther, known as krait ha-megillah, also take place in synagogues, in addition to reciting added daily prayers and grace after meals, known as Al HaHissim.
During the celebrations, it is also customary to wear masks and costumes, participate in parades and partake in the feasting.
For a more detailed version of the story of Esther, please visit: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645995/jewish/The-Basic-Purim-Story.htm