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It’s Purim - the most cheerful and colorful of all the Jewish holidays. The Purim story takes place in Shushan, the capital city of the Persian Empire, in the 3rd year of King Ahashverosh reign. The holiday celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people by Queen Esther as described in the Scroll of Esther (מְגִלַּתאֶסְתֵּר) – Megillat Esther.
Esther, John Everett Millais, 1865
Purim 2013 will start on Sunday, the 24th of February and will continue for two days until Monday, the 25th of February.
The story is full of plots and schemes, good vs. evil, as well as colorful characters. It is important to introduce the main characters before continuing with the story:
Ahashverosh (אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ) – The King of the Persian Empire who reined over 127 countries.
Vashti (וַשְתִּי) – Ahashverosh first Queen.
Haman(הָמָן) – The villain advisor of King Ahashverosh.
Mordechai (מָרְדְּכַי) – A Jewish man who lived in the capital, Shushan. He was originally from Jerusalem but was expelled by Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylon. He is the foster parent of his cousin, Esther.
Esther (אֶסְתֵּר) – An orphan Jewish girl, raised by her cousin Mordechai, who became the Queen. Also known by her Hebrew name Hadasa (הֲדַסָּה).
Three years after becoming the King of Persia, King Ahashverosh threw a big and lengthy feast to show off the rich treasures of his kingdom. When the King called his Queen, Vashti to come down and show off her beauty she refused. The king, who fully trusted his advisors (maybe too much, as we will see later) followed their suggestion to get rid of his insubordinate wife and went off to find a better one in her place. The King’s agents were sent to search for appropriate queen-to-be. Finally, Esther was chosen by the King to become his new Queen. She kept her Jewish origins secret as Mordechai advised her.
In the meantime, Mordechai overheard that two of the King’s servants has become angry with the King and planned to kill him. He told Esther about the plot and she told it to the King. The servants were hanged and the story was written in the King’s private record book.
Ahashverosh was fond of his advisor, Haman, and promoted him as a vice to the King. Everyone in Shushan had to bow to him and everyone did so, except for one person – Mordechai – who insisted on following the first commandment of not bowing to other gods. Mordechai’s disobedience made Haman so angry that he decided to kill Mordechai and all his people, meaning all the Jews in the entire kingdom of Ahashverosh.
Haman drew a PUR (פּוּר, lottery) to choose the day to kill the Jews of the Persian Empire: the 13th day of the month of Adar (י"ג אֲדָר). Haman easily persuaded Ahashverosh to support this act and the orders to destroy the Jews and steal their property were sent throughout the kingdom.
The Salvation plan
Ester, Andrea del Castagno, 1450
Upon hearing the plan to destroy his people, Mordechai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of mourning. Mourning was not enough to save the nation, so the woman closest to the king, Esther, joined the mission. Although it was (deadly) risky to approach the king without being called (even for the queen), Esther did so and fortunately, Ahashverosh was pleased with her and pointed his scepter toward her. Esther asked the King and Haman to come to a party she had prepared, which they did so willingly. At that party she asked them to join her at another party on the following day.
On his way home from Esther’s party Haman, crossed paths with Mordechai and the latter did not even move to show his respect to the high officer. The furious Haman consulted with his officers and had gallows constructed to hang Mordechai from.
That night the king couldn’t sleep, so he asked his servants to read for him from his private record book. He was read the episode in which Mordechai revealed the plot to kill the King and realized that Mordechai has never been rewarded. As Haman was in the palace (to ask the King’s permission to hang Mordechai), Ahashverosh consulted with him about the reward. Haman, thinking that the King wanted to reward him, suggested that one of the King’s highest officers should dress the man with royal robes and crown and lead him on a royal horseback through the city square, announcing that “This is what is done for the man who the King wishes to honor.” Instead of hanging Mordechai, Haman ended up dressing Mordechai in royal robes and leading him on the horse through the city square.
The Twist in the Story
Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, Rembrandt, 1660
At Esther’s second party, Ahashverosh asked Esther to tell him her request, promising to fulfill it. Esther then revealed her secret Jewish identity and requested for her life and the lives of her people. She pointed at Haman as the “brains” behind the plan to destroy her people. The furious King ordered to hang Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordechai.
Ahashverosh gave MordechaiHaman’s role as second in command to the King. The orders to kill the Jews were called off and the Jews were permitted to join together and defend themselves. On the day that the Jewish Nation was to be destroyed, the Jews celebrated their victory over their enemies and Haman and his sons were hanged.
Mordechai set the 14th and 15th days of Adar as a holiday called “Purim” (from the word PUR, lottery) to be celebrated every year. Those were days when the Jews were safe from their enemies, and that month changed from one of sorrow to celebration. These days are days of feasting and gladness, and of sending food to friends and gifts to the poor.
XagSame’ax (Happy Holiday)
Hebrew Teacher @ eTeacherHebrew
Purim Hebrew Words
Part of speech: construct chain, feminine
Literal Meaning: scroll of Esther
Part of speech: noun, masculine
Literal Meaning: feast, banquet
The Feast of Esther, Jan Lievens, 1625
מֶלֶךְ (ז)מַלְכָּה (נ)
Transcription:melex (m)malka (f)
Literal Meaning: king, queen
Esther and Ahashverosh, KonradWitz, 1434-1435
Purim Hebrew Song
Words: Levin Kipnis
Big festival for the Jews!
Song and dances!
Let’s make noise:
By the graggers!
You can listen to this song performed by the Hadasim choir here.
Purim Hebrew Quiz
In Purim we read:
A.The Book of Genesis
B.The Scroll of Esther
C.The Scroll of Ruth
D.The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Hebrew name of Queen Esther is:
D.Esther is a Hebrew name
The origin of the Holiday name “Purim” is:
A.Pur means “Lot” and it refers to the date that was chosen by Haman to kill the Jews.
B.In Purim we give food gifts to the poor people, so the name of the holiday is derived from the word “poor”
C.Purim is the Hebrew name of Mordechai
D.The origin of the Holiday name is unknown
Purim Customs are:
A.Masquerading in costumes
B.Giving gifts of food and drink
C.Reading the Megillah
D.All of the above
Purim Hebrew Names
Esther and Mordechai, Aertde Gelder, 1685
Queen Esther was King Ahashverosh wife.
“And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful, whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.” Esther 2, 7
Mordecai (Mordechai, Mordexay)
Mordecai the Jew was Queen Esther's uncle. Together they saved the Jews from Haman's evil plot.
"Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite." Esther 2, 5
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