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27.02.2015

Traditions and costumes at Purim

On the evening of the 4th of March the most joyful holiday of the Jewish people begins. It’s time to get ready!

The history of the holiday of Purim tells of the miraculous salvation of the Jews of Persia from destruction by Haman, the descendent of Amalek. Haman’s hatred for local Jews arose because Mordechai, one of the heroes of the holiday, refused to bow down to the king’s advisor. Haman was the favorite of King Ahasuerus, which did not stop him from planning to kill him and arrange a plot to exterminate the Jews of the entire Persian Empire.

However, the plans of the cunning advisor were not destined to succeed: Mordechai accidentally overheard two guards discussing the plans to kill the king, and informed him of this. The guards were punished, and Mordechai received honors from the royal court.

Then Haman moved to the second part of his plan, but here Mordecai also stopped him. The advisor deceived the king, forcing to sign a decree on the extermination of the Jews of Persia, but when Mordecai found out about this, he persuaded his niece Esther, the wife of Ahasuerus, to hold a feast in honor of the king and pray for the annulment of the royal decree.

When the beautiful Esther got her husband drunk and told the whole story of Haman’s cunning, the king ordered the advisor’s execution, and the Jewish community received the right to protect themselves from attackers.

Costumes at Purim. Jerusalem

The traditions of Purim involve reading the “Scroll of Esther”, in which the story of the holiday is told. The reading takes around on Esther, and in many communities it is customary to make a lot of noise when the name of Haman is uttered. Additionally, in some communities, a Purim spiel is put on, a theatrical performance where the story of Purim is played out by young and grown-up adult actors.

Purim in Tel-Aviv and Ashdod

A special pastry is eaten at Purim – the “Hamantaschen”. These triangles with poppy seeds or jam are called “Haman’s Ears”, but despite the bloodthirsty name, they really are very delicious.

The most impressive part of the holiday is the carnival. Purim in Israel is perhaps one of the most spectacular holidays in the world. Thousands of people take to the streets, showing off their costumes that they made especially for the holiday.

Costumes at Purim are a special industry in Israel, and during this period the prices go up, which means Israelis try to buy their costumes in advance. Additionally, there are companies that offer holiday costume tailored especially to suit the client. People who use this service will know that their Purim costumes are unique.

Purim in Kiev

Purim in Dnepropetrovsk

Purim in Kharkov

An important part of the Purim holiday is the tradition to get very drunk. The roots of this tradition can be found in the Talmud text: “The rabbi said: “People must get drunk at Purim until they cannot distinguish “Haman is cursed!” from “Mordecai is blessed!” (The Babylonian Talmud, Megillah, 7b).

We would advise people who do not wish to get this drunk to drink a bit more than usual.

Chag Purim Sameach, dear readers!

The photos in the article are courtesy of Flash90, the Brodsky Synagogue, the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community and the Kharkov Jewish business club

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