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A Thrill Of Purim: Embracing Festivity and Faith

An article, a list poem, and a mini virtual art gallery. This piece also includes videos and photos I found and retrieved from YouTube and Canva Pro.

By Talia DevoraPublished 2 months ago 7 min read
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A Thrill Of Purim: Embracing Festivity and Faith
Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

Before I go into what the Jewish holiday of Purim is all about, I'd like to share a list poem I wrote on Purim last year!

Happy Purim

It’s the time to be rainbows,

it’s the time to be dancing kings and queens,

it’s the time to be princes and princesses,

it’s the time to be people you’ve dreamed of being,

it’s the time to indulge,

it’s the time to play,

it’s the time to share,

it’s the time to congregate!

Happy Purim!

By Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

What is Purim?!

Purim is a mirthful Jewish holiday that's celebrated annually on the 14th Hebrew month of Adar (February-March). Purim commemorates the saving of the Jews in the ancient Persian empire.

The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE developed over 127 lands, and all the Jews became vulnerable. When Queen Vashti, King Ahashverosh's wife, was executed for refusing to follow his instructions, he planned a beauty pageant in search of a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, caught his eyes and became Queen Esther, although she refused to discuss her nationality.

In the meantime, the Jew-despising Haman became prime minister of the Persian empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish people and Queen Esther's cousin, resisted the king's orders and was reluctant to bow to Haman. Haman was infuriated, and he persuaded the king to give a commandment to murder all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date picked by a lottery Haman created.

Mordechai exhilarated all the Jews, persuading them to repent, fast, and pray. In the meantime, Queen Esther invited the king and Haman to a feast. During the feast, Queen Esther shared her Jewish identity. After the disclosure of her Jewish identity, Haman was hanged, Mordechai was given the role of prime minister in his stead, and a new order was given, rendering the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their foes.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews rallied and murdered many of their adversaries. On the 14th of Adar, they relaxed and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan, they took one more day to complete their task.

“Queen Esther”, a zentangle portrait painting I did in my acrylic paint pad.

Why do we call this holiday Purim?!

Purim means "lots" in ancient Persian. The holiday was then named since Haman had thrown lots to figure out when he could execute his evil plan to kill all the Jews.

Now that we learned a bit about what Purim is and the history behind it, it's time to learn about Purim traditions and customs!

1. We indulge in a wide variety of festive foods and beverages

By Anton on Unsplash

Queen Esther and Mordechai proclaimed that Purim was a time to indulge and spread pure joy. This belief became a customary Purim seudah (meal), which occurs during the daylight hours on Purim. It's the proper way to celebrate our success against a commandment to physically ruin us, since it provides a sense of physical pleasure.

On Purim, we indulge in traditional Purim delicacies such as wine-braised beef brisket, kreplach (triangular dumplings filled with meat, potato, and/or vegetables), nuts and legumes, and Queen Esther's favourite fassoulyeh b'chuderach (a vegetarian fragrant bean stew). Fun fact: Queen Esther was a vegetarian! Besides eating festive foods, we also drink different alcoholic beverages; non-alcoholics or people who don't like alcohol are not obligated to drink. Although we are given the opportunity to enjoy alcoholic beverages, this doesn't give us a free pass to drink irresponsibly. We are obligated to stop when we reach a point of confusion. It's normal for us to get tipsy, but not get seriously drunk.

At the Purim carnivals I attended when I was a child, traditional dishes weren't served, but I have fond memories of feasting on classic carnival delicacies like hot dogs, popcorn, and candy floss.

The recipe for fassoulyeh b'chuderah is down below.

2. We exchange mishloach manot

Photo found and retrieved from Canva Pro.

Mishloach manot are gifts of food that friends and family exchange on Purim. It's a traditional custom to exchange gifts to one another.

Often displayed in baskets, mishloach manot include at least two different kinds of food, including hamantaschen (Haman's ears), a traditional three-sided pastry filled with chocolate, poppyseed, marmalade, etc. Many people either purchase or bake hamantaschens to include in these gift baskets and to enjoy in the comfort of their homes. The link to the recipe for hamantaschens is down below. Mishloach manot may also include a wide range of food like candies, chocolates, dried fruits, etc. These types of gifts are often referred to by their Yiddish name, shalachmanos.

I love having hamantaschens, especially the ones that are filled with chocolate! I used to have them all the time when I was younger.

3. We dress up as anything we want

“Animal Mask”, a zentangle painting I did in my acrylic paint pad.

It's customary for both children and grown-ups to dress up in a costume and carnival mask of their choice. There are a few reasons why we dress up and wear masks on Purim, but I'll only name a couple of them. We dress up in costumes and wear masks, as a way of commemorating the dressing up of Mordechai in King Ahashverosh's royal attire in the story of Purim, and to reduce feelings of humiliation of the financially dependent who go around collecting charity on this day.

When I was young, I loved dressing up in Disney princess costumes. I even vividly remember dressing up as an old man when I was a preteen!

4. We dance to upbeat and festive music

Photo found and retrieved from Canva Pro.

As I mentioned above, Purim is a time to celebrate and spread joy. Besides eating, drinking, dressing up, gift giving, and attending carnivals or parades, dancing is another common way to spread joy and celebrate Purim with friends and family. In orthodox synagogues, traditional Purim songs are played at Purim carnivals, and the music is upbeat and happy in nature. In less traditional synagogues, upbeat, secular music is played, and there are even movie, fantasy, and Disney-themed carnivals that people attend with their friends and families.

Below is a compilation of Jewish EDM songs I found and retrieved from YouTube. This is the kind of music you’d listen to at a Purim festival in an orthodox synagogue.

5. We enjoy a variety of activities like carnival games, parades, and Purim spiels (plays)

Photo found and retrieved from Canva Pro.

Even though Purim is a minor holiday, unlike major holidays like Rosh Hashana, Passover, and Yom Kippur, children enjoy celebrating Purim. Since it's a day of spreading merriment and splurging on traditional foods and drinks, it led to the popularity of carnivals, combining these traditions and often including carnival games for children. Putting on and watching Purim spiels is another popular custom that children love. In Israel, Purim is happily observed by parades and people of all ages dress up in their favourite costumes.

Besides dressing up, going to carnivals that'd happen in synagogue was my main favourite Purim custom! I attended many Purim carnivals all the time when I was a kid.

Below is a YouTube video of a Purim parade that took place in Boker Sde, Israel, 2016.

6. We read the megillah

“Megillah”, a drawing I did in my 9x12” sketchbook.

The Scroll of Esther, widely known as the Megillah, is chanted in the synagogue on the evening of Purim, and then again in the morning of Purim. It’s the last five scrolls that create part of the third section of the Torah, known as Ketuvim (Writings).

The Scroll of Esther tells the story of the saving of the Jews of the Persian Empire. The Scroll of Esther is widely known as the Megillah, not because it’s the most significant of the five scrolls, but because of its high level of popularity, the notability that it’s given to its communal reading, and the fact that it’s the only one that is still read from a parchment scroll. At one point, it was normal for every Jewish home to own a Megillah, and much time and skill were dedicated to the creation of beautifully crafted texts and elaborate wooden and silver cases that would preserve the scroll.

7. We give tzedakah (charity)

“Tzedakah Box”, an abstract drawing I did in my 11x14” sketch pad.

Matanot la-evyonim are gifts that are given to the needy, so that they too, can enjoy a festive Purim meal. Many families in need have committed to participating in this significant social justice component of the holiday.

This is a customary way of giving tzedakah on Purim. There are many ways to give tzedakah when it's not Purim. If you want to learn more about tzedakah, please find the link to the article down below.

8. Observant Jews fast and pray prior to the holiday

By William Farlow on Unsplash

Secular Jews do not practice this custom, but observant Jews follow this tradition. Fasting and prayer happens on the day before the actual holiday, to honour Queen Esther's choice to fast and pray before speaking with the king about his plan to kill all the Jewish people in his kingdom.

This fast is called Ta'anit Esther (The Fast of Esther). A ta'anit is a fast in Judaism in which one doesn't consume food or drink, including water.

“Celebration”, a Purim-themed mandala drawing in did in my 11x14” sketch pad.

Thank you for taking the time to read another one of my stories. If you enjoyed this story, please give it a ❤️, share it with others, comment, and please feel free to send me a tip/pledge to show your appreciation and support. To find and read more exciting content, please consider subscribing and visiting my public profile. Stay tuned for more poetry, recipes, stories, and much more!

Please feel free to keep in touch with me!

IG: @tdwrites24 (where you'll find all of my literary works) and @taliascreations331 (where you'll find all of my artwork, photography, digital art, and coding projects

References

Historical
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About the Creator

Talia Devora

Poetess, visual artist and lifestyle/quiz writer! My pastimes include reading, sleeping, gaming, music, fitness, etc! Be yourselves, be kind and value life! Let's connect and be friends!

My IG accounts: @tdwrites24 & @tdcreates97

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  • Chloe Gilholy2 months ago

    This sounds like a great holiday. Really well put together. Makes me want to make Fassoulyeh b’Chuderah.

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