Purim is the most Genuinely Fun feast in the Jewish Calendar for two reasons:
- It celebrates what it means to be Jewish.
- It is not mentioned in Torah, and therefore is not Doctrine-Heavy in content. Like Hanukkah, it is a People’s Feast!
But there is a serious side to Purim, which comes also from the Story of Esther, and that is the Spirit of Giving. On Purim one sends gifts of food to family and friends, and one gives Tzedikah, or gifts to the Poor.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, drinks and other foodstuffs given as mishloach manot on Purim day.
Mishloach manot (Hebrew: משלוח מנות [miʃˈlo.aχ maˈnot], literally, “sending of portions”; also spelled and pronounced mishloach manos), or shalach manos (Yiddish: שלח־מנות Yiddish pronunciation: [ʃaləχmɔnəs]), and also called a Purim basket, are gifts of food or drink that are sent to family, friends and others on Purim day.
The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot derives from the Book of Esther. It is meant to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast held later in the day, and to increase love and friendship among Jews and their neighbors.
According to the halakha, every Jew over the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah should send a food gift consisting of two different types of food to at least one recipient. The practice is a fairly prominent feature of Purim.
The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot is spelled out in the Book of Esther, which enjoins the Jewish people to observe the days of Purim “as days of feasting and gladness, and sending portions of food to one another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22). This verse refers to three different mitzvot: eating a Purim meal, the sending of two different, ready-to-eat foods and/or drinks to one friend (known by the Hebrew term, mishloach manot), and the distribution of two charitable donations (either money or food) to two poor people.
In actual practice, many individuals fulfil the first mitzvah themselves (by sending food gifts to friends, neighbours, relatives, etc.), and the second mitzvah by contributing to charitable organisations which distribute money or food to the poor on Purim day.
Poor people also give mishloach manot. One who cannot afford to buy food for his friend may exchange his own food with that of his friend — this fulfills both their obligations.
This mitzvah may not be fulfilled by giving items other than food. Money or other material items cannot suffice. Only food gifts fulfil this mitzvah.
The following halachot apply to the giving of mishloach manot:
Mishloach manot must be sent and delivered during the daylight hours of Purim.
According to most opinions, the sender and recipient should be observing the same day of Purim.
Children over the age of six or seven are also encouraged to send mishloach manot to their friends as training for the performance of a mitzvah.
Mishloach manot are not sent to a mourner. The mourner himself is obligated to send mishloach manot, but the package should not be too elaborate. According to some opinions, a mourner should send to only one person.
Mishloach manot can be delivered personally, but it is customary to deliver the food packages via a third party. Children are often involved in this mitzvah as the go-betweens between the giving parties, and are rewarded with sweets and treats for their efforts.
One is not obligated to send mishloach manot as a reciprocal gesture to the sender.
While the halacha only calls for the giving of two food gifts to one friend, a person who gives mishloach manot to more than one person is called praiseworthy. However, it is better to give more charity on Purim day than to spend more money on elaborate mishloach manot.
Mishloach manot can include any food or drink that is ready to eat. A bottle of soft drinks or a bag of potato chips fulfills this criterion; raw meat or a package of uncooked grains does not. Mishloach manot baskets typically include wine and pastries (especially hamentashen); alternately, cooked dishes, canned foods, salads, snack foods, sweets and fruits may be sent. Though a common perception holds that the two foods of mishloach manot must carry different brachot (blessings), this has no source in halakha. One may give two different types of fruits, such as an apple and an orange, but not two of the same fruit, such as two apples.
The amount of food in each mishloach manot package should reflect the standards of both the giver and the receiver. A wealthy person should send a nicer package to his recipients than would a poor person.
Today it is possible to order all kinds of Purim Baskets online and have them sent to the recipient. While this may fulfill the intent of Shalachmanos, it is not nearly as fun as handmade and personally delivered!
The Story of Purim
Once upon a time, in a city called shushan in the land of Persia, there lived a man named mordechai, which means servant of god. he was a very good man, and always tried to help people, and do the right thing.
now Mordechai lived with his niece, the daughter of his sister. her name was esther, which means star, for she was as beautiful as the morning star.
Mordechai and esther were jewish, just like many of us, which means they liked eating challah, and lighting Hanukkah candles, and singing Shabbat songs, just like you do.
in the same city there lived the great king of Persia, he was called ahashverosh meaning, king. king ahashverosh lived in a big palace, and had lots of money, and a beautiful wife named queen Vashti. her name means most beautiful.
one day king ahashverosh was having a big party just for the men in the palace, and he decided to send for queen Vashti, so she would come to the party and all the men would be impressed by what a beautiful wife ahashverosh had, and they would respect him more.
king ahashverosh sent for queen Vashti, commanding her to come to the stag party. but queen Vashti had grown tired of being treated this way. she said no to king ahashverosh, and went to live with a good friend in another town.
all the men in the palace told king aashverosh he should get a new wife, and forget about queen Vashti. well, king ahashverosh thought that was a good idea.
so king aashverosh had another party, to which he invited all the beautiful young women in the kingdom, so he could look them over and pick out a new wife. its good to be the king, he thought.
the one he liked best was esther, who was not only beautiful, but also very smart and very kind. Wow said king ahashverosh, all that, and brains too! after the party king ahashverosh sent a command to modechai, esther’s uncle. I wish to have esther for my queen, king ahashverosh said.
so Mordechai spoke to his niece esther. this is a good idea, he said, for we jews are strangers in this land. who knows, one day the king and the people may decide they do not like imigrants, and turn upon us, and we will be in danger. if you are the queen, you may be able to influence king ahashverosh to be on our side. so go and be the queen. but do not let on that you are jewish. keep that a secret. esther went to the palace where she married king ahashverosh and became the queen.
now there was a man working in the palace who was mean, and wanted king ahashverosh to only like him. and this man especially did not alien imigrants. his name was…haman…now the name haman means a really evil dude, haman had big ears, and a jacket with really big pockets.
haman was an important man in the palace, and expected all the people to obey him, and to bow their heads down whenever he passed by. if they didn’t haman got really angry.
well, as luck would have it, one day haman passed by Mordechai in the street. and Mordechai did not bow down to haman. haman became very angry, and went to tattle to king ahashverosh.
haman told king ahashverosh, there are some people living around here who are not like us, he said. they do not look like us, and they do things differently than we do. I think we should get rid of them, haman said. now haman did not mention Mordechai the jew.
well, king ahashverosh did not know that haman wanted to get rid of Mordechai, and queen esther, and all their jewish friends. so king ahashverosh said he did not like foreigners any better than haman did, so haman should get the border patrol and round up all those strange people and get rid of them.
when the jewish people found out about haman’s new plan to get rid of them, they were very sad and very scared. sad because they liked ling in sushan, and scared because the did not know what might happen to them. what could they do? aha! thought Mordechai, this is the very reason I sent esther to be the queen. so Mordechai sent a message to queen esther at the palace.
queen esther, we need your help, Mordechai wrote. that nasty haman wants to get rid of all us jews. talk to king ahashverosh and ask him to stop haman from doing this.
queen esther thought, I must be very brave. she made a special dinner for king ahashverosh, with all his favorite food. then she invited king ahashverosh and haman to dinner.
haman was very proud that he had been invited to have dinner with king ahashverosh. they had dinner on the patio of the palace restaurant, and all the other people could see haman dining with the king.
king ahashverosh thought the dinner was great, and when they finished he said to queen esther, queen esther, the dinner was great. how can I thank you?
queen esther said, oh please, my king, I need you to help me and my uncle Mordechai, and all my jewish friends, because someone wants to get rid of us!
king ahashverosh was surprised, and said to queen esther, that’s odd, you don’t look jewish. but he really liked esther and did not want anyone to get rid of her. besides, he did not want to lose another queen. what would all the men think of him?
that’s terrible, said king aashverosh. who wants to get rid of you and your uncle Mordechai and all your jewish friends?
queen esther pointed right at haman. it’s haman. haman wants to get rid of us.
oh, no shouted king ahashverosh, and he became very angry. and it was haman’s turn to be very afraid.
he had done everything he could to get rid of queen esther, nevertheless she persisted.
king ahashverosh called for his guards. guards! he called. take haman and get rid of him instead. so haman was gotten rid of, and queen esther and her uncle Mordechai, and all the jewish people were saved.
king ahashverosh, who turned out to be good and kind after all, invited Mordechai to come and live at the palace along with him and queen esther. and so Mordechai took haman’s place of honor. of course mordechai was much nicer than haman, and so after that no one had to go live anywhere else if they didn’t want to. and everyone lived happily in the kingdom.
Mordechai did a great job working for king ahashverosh, a really great job. so great, I can tell you.
and to celebrate, queen esther baked delicious cookies, which are called in Hebrew oznei haman after haman’s big ears, or in Yiddish, after haman’s big pockets, hamantaschen.
and that is the story of esther and Mordechai that we tell on purim. now purim means lots, for on purim we eat lots of hamantaschen!
We’re having a Hamantaschen Making Class this Saturday!
Hamantaschen Class – Saturday, February 18th
1:00 – 3:00 PM
at the home of Glyn & Will Melnyk
Make your Hamanstaschen for Purim
Only 1 space left, so register now!
No charge, but a $5.00 donation is requested for materials.
Presented by People of the Mountain
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PURIM with the People of the Mountain. from the Society for Humanistic Judaism
Join Us for Our Family Purim Party!
As winter becomes spring, Jews celebrate Purim, originally one of several spring-welcoming festivals. First and foremost, Purim is fun, joyous, and boisterous. But even hilarity must fit within a framework.
The Megilla lists four ways to celebrate Purim:
1. Reading the Megilla (The Esther Scroll),
2. Giving charity,
3. Giving gifts of food, and
4. Eating the festive meal. The hamantashen, the three-cornered filled cookie, remains the food of choice for Purim.
In The Beginning . . .
On one level, the Purim story represents the annual struggle to end the harsh reign of winter. The original characters appear to have been Babylonian gods: Ishtar, the goddess of fertility; Marduk, the chief guardian of the heavens; and Haman, the underworld devil. Ishtar and Haman, life and death, vie with each other for supremacy. Ishtar triumphs; spring returns; and life is renewed. Yahveh, the Hebrew God, played no part in the celebration, which was filled with theatrical renditions of the contest. Noisemaking and masquerading were necessary to trick the evil gods and to aid the good ones. Merriment was the order of the day.
The Megilla, or biblical Book of Esther, replaced Ishtar and Marduk with Jewish mortals (Esther and Mordecai); Haman became a Persian “devil.” The holiday’s name, “Purim,” meaning “lots” or “dice,” is meant to remind us of how the evil character Haman drew lots to determine the fate of the Jews of Persia. According to the Book of Esther, were it not for the goodness and intervention of Esther and her uncle Mordecai in the court of King Ahasuerus, the Jews certainly would have been exterminated by the king’s vizier Haman. Purim became the joyous celebration of an epic Jewish victory over anti-Semitism and threatened annihilation – an enactment of the hopes of persecuted Jews throughout the centuries.
At first, because of the Book of Esther’s secular nature – it is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God – it was excluded from the sacred canon. It is likely that political conflict between the rabbis and the Maccabees brought the Book of Esther into the Bible and Purim into the official Jewish calendar. Uncomfortable with Purim but faced with a festival that the people would not abandon, the rabbinic leaders found a way to suit it to their purposes. On the thirteenth of Adar, the day before Purim, Jews celebrated Nicanor’s Day, commemorating a major Maccabean victory over a Greek general named Nicanor. The rabbis, to minimize the influence of their rivals, the Maccabees, turned Nicanor’s Day into the Fast of Esther, immediately preceding Purim, and gave the playful folk holiday their grudging blessing. Nicanor’s Day disappeared and Purim grew more popular. Purim shpiels (plays) and satires allowed ordinary people to “sass” their “betters” and voice grievances that remained unuttered throughout the year. Purim balls and carnivals encouraged revelry and drunkenness.
Rabbinic Judaism continues to celebrate Purim with great festivity. In addition to reading the scroll of Esther aloud in the synagogue to a unique or original trop (cantillation), people dress in costumes depicting the major characters of the story. During the telling of the story, the heroes are cheered and the villain, Haman, is booed and his name is drowned out by the sound of noise-makers or gragers.
A Celebration Of The Heroic
For Humanistic Jews, Purim is a celebration of the heroic in Jewish history, a tribute to human ethical role models. Human courage and ingenuity are at the center of a story about the triumph of good over evil. Humanistic Jews celebrate the heroes and chastise the villains of the world through modern Purim shpiels. Reading the Megilla – accompanied by gragers, cheers, and boos – provides a starting point from which to move beyond the framework of the biblical story. The masks of Purim become the faces of Jewish men and women worthy of emulation, from Mordecai to Theodore Herzl and Albert Einstein, and from Esther to Henrietta Szold and Golda Meir. Humanistic Purim celebrations often feature children’s costume parades and carnivals. These lighthearted activities have a serious side, recalling the heroism of individuals and the organized resistance to oppression of the Jewish people.
Choosing A Hero
Having a hero or role model is important for young people. They like to see how adults (who used to be kids themselves) can be influential and powerful and do great things for the world. During Purim, it is fun to pay tribute to heroes of the past and present by dressing up like them or by role-playing with others who are impersonating their heroes. You could even write funny skits where the heroes interact with each other. When you choose a hero, do a little research to find out how they looked, what they wore, how they acted, and what they might say.
In choosing a hero, you will want to consider six points:
FAMOUS: someone who is well-known and distinguished in some field
JEWISH: someone who is not only Jewish but proud
ACTIVE: someone who uses human skills to solve problems
BOLD: someone who boldly challenges old ideas
CARING: someone who is concerned about the welfare of the community
UNIVERSAL: someone who values both their human and their Jewish identity
Mishloakh manot, sending gifts to the poor, is a tradition that Humanistic Jews incorporate into their Purim celebrations. Giving gifts of food to friends encourages a sense of community. Preparing food baskets for the hungry fulfills humanistic ideals. Inviting new immigrants to home or communal celebrations is an extension of that concept, which embodies humanistic values. By contributing to local food banks or international famine relief organizations, working on home reclamation projects, or assisting the homeless, Humanistic Jews can cultivate the “hero” within themselves.
A Purim Party for Members, Family and Friends of People of the Mountain!
We at People of the Mountain had a great Challah Class today at RavenOak. Glyn taught a number of members and friends of all ages, and a great time was had by all!
Watch the Slideshow –
Friday, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Visit the United States Holocaust Museum or Its Website