Learn all there is to know about the joyful festival of Purim!

The Purim story revolves around the events that occurred during the time of the Persian Empire when the young Jewish Queen Esther was miraculously put into a position to save the Jewish people!
The word Purim means 'lots,' and it refers to the lottery in which the evil Haman, the Prime Minister and aide to the ruler of the Persian empire, King Achashverosh, organized to decide the day he would carry out his plan to wipe out the Jewish people. Instead, God orchestrated a series of miraculous events that, rather than destroy the Jews, led to the downfall of Haman and the destruction of all those who wanted to harm the Jewish people!

The festival of Purim commemorates these miracles! We celebrate by listening to recitals of Megillat Esther (The Scroll of Esther, which retells the events of the Purim story), partaking in a Seuda (a lavish banquet in which we eat and drink in merriment), giving gifts of food packages, and donating money to charity.

Discover how a young Jewish girl became the savior of the Jewish nation!

The events of the Purim story are documented in Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther. Here it is in a nutshell.

During the 4th century BCE, there were 127 lands under the rule of the mighty Persian Empire, led by King Achasverosh. In one incident, his Queen, Vashti, refused to heed his commands and was executed, leading to a beauty pageant in which the new Queen would be chosen and crowned. That Queen would turn out to be a young Jewish girl called Esther (who, at this point, did not reveal her Judaism to the King).
Next saw the appointment of the anti-Semitic Haman to the position of Prime Minister. In a demonstration of his power, he ordered all the empire's subjects to bow down to him, yet one man defied this order, Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish people (and Esther's cousin).
Haman was furious and used this defiance to come up with a plan to exterminate the Jewish population. He then drew lots to determine the date to carry out his evil plan, which would be the 13th of the Hebrew month of Adar.
Mordechai immediately sprung to action, encouraging the Jewish people to repent, pray, and fast to find favor with God. Queen Esther also took action, preparing a lavish feast for the King, in which she revealed her Jewish identity and fear of the destruction of her people by the wicked Haman.
The King was furious and immediately ordered Haman to be hung, and the plan was canceled. Mordechai was appointed Prime Minister in Haman's place, and the King decreed that the Jewish people had the right to defend themselves. On that same day, the 13th of Adar, the Jews took up arms and defeated all those who sought to harm them. The next day, the 14th Adar, they celebrated their victory over their enemies and that is the exact date on which we celebrate Purim!

From banquets to fancy dress, to gifts of food and charity, this is Purim!

Although Purim is a festival celebrated on the 14th of Adar, there are a few Purim traditions that are observed both before, on, and after this date.

1: The Fast of Esther

On the day before Purim (except when Purim is on a Sunday, in which case the fast gets pushed back to the Thursday before), we observe the Fast of Esther (Taanit Esther) which commemorates the fast which Esther and the entire Jewish population observed to bring about God's salvation.

2: Fancy dress

There are several reasons why we dress up in fancy dress on Purim. One of them is that it commemorates when Mordechai was dressed up in Haman's Royal Garb and paraded through the city to be honored as the new Prime Minister. Another beautiful reason is that Purim is a day in which the poor go around collecting and dressing up in fancy dress can provide a distraction and minimize any embarrassment they may have while asking for a donation.

3: Hamentashen

Dig into the tastiest treats of the Purim festival, Oznei Haman! Or in Yiddish language, Hamentaschen! These triangular-shaped cookies are baked in honor of Purim and feature a variety of tasty fillings, including the classic with poppy seeds, jam, chocolate, or, in Israel, sesame Halva!

4: Shushan Purim

In Jerusalem, we celebrate Purim a day later than the rest of the country. This is because, in the city of Shushan within the Persian Empire, the Jews rested a day after their peers, so they celebrated Purim on the 15th of Adar. And this tradition was applied to any city featuring surrounding walls, like Jerusalem!

If you want to celebrate an authentic Purim, here's what you must do!

Megillat Esther:

Both men and women are obligated to hear recitals of the Scroll of Esther which tells the events of the Purim story. At every mention of the name Haman, expect to hear a lot of noise from the congregation, including stamping of the feet, the whirring sound of the graggers (noisemakers), and lots of boos! It is essential to hear every single word of the Megillah. Fortunately, there are many readings throughout the evening and day!

The Purim Seuda:

It is a Mitzvah (positive commandment) to either host or attend a grand festive meal on Purim. This is a meal to which everybody is invited! It usually lasts for hours and often goes into the evening and is the only time that we are actually commanded to get merry with a couple of alcoholic beverages (everyone is expected to drink to a level of enjoyment - not a drunken stupor!).

Mishloach Manot:

To show that we are united and one big family, everybody is expected to give a respectable package containing at least two ready-to-eat foods and/or drinks to at least one person on Purim Day.

Matanot Levyonim:

This is the one day of the year that we are commanded to give anybody who asks a donation of charity without questioning their motives. This commandment is fulfilled by giving at least two separate donations to two different people or charitable organizations, each amounting to a respectable sum.
Purim is truly one of the most wonderful festivals in the Jewish calendar, and in Israel, you can really feel a part of it! From the evening and throughout the day, everyone is celebrating and uniting to commemorate the miracles that occurred for their ancestors during the Purim story and the ongoing miracles we are experiencing in Israel today! We can apply many aspects of Purim to our everyday lives, especially in Israel. People are always there for one another, in the good times and the bad. When fundraising for charitable causes, individuals reach their goals within minutes of publicizing them! If someone is unwell, people gather together to pray for their well-being. And in times of distress, when the Jewish nation is in serious danger, people fast, just like Queen Esther and Mordechai did, and say prayers of repentance to bring about God's salvation! We see these same characteristics among the thousands of subscribers to our surprise packages who want to support Israel's small businesses and invest in the rejuvenation of the Holy Land!

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