From the Rabbi
An Introduction to Purim:
They Tried to Destroy Us. We’re Still Here. Let’s Eat!
Jews often joke that the title above is the theme of every Jewish holiday. However, it really does fit for the joyous and fun holiday of Purim, which commemorates a time when the Jewish people, living in Persia, were saved from extermination. The story is told in the Biblical book of Esther, whose heroes are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordechai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahashverosh, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahashverosh loved Esther more than his other women and made the beautiful Esther his queen, but the King did not know that she was a Jew.
The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king who hated Mordechai because he refused to bow down to Haman. Insulted by Mordechai, Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the King, “There are certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people’s, and they do not observe the King’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the King to tolerate them.” (Esther 3:8). The King gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, who planned to exterminate all of them. Mordechai persuaded Esther to speak to the King on behalf of the Jewish people. After fasting for three days to prepare herself, she went to the King, revealed herself as a Jew, and told him of Haman’s plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had originally been prepared for Mordechai.
Today, Purim is a time of fun, family, community, unity, and food—celebrating the resilience and survival of the Jewish people. The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the Book of Esther, known as the Megillah. It is also customary to wear costumes, hold carnival-like celebrations, and to perform plays and parodies called Purim shpiels, a Yiddish word meaning play or skit. Purim shpiels date back to Europe of the 1400s when Ashkenazi Jews celebrated Purim with silly monologues—generally rhymed paraphrases of the Book of Esther, parodies of holy texts, or funny sermons whose purpose was to entertain audiences.Today a Purim Shpiel is performed at TBI and at many synagogues and communities around the world.
The Jewish people has seen so much adversity in our history, and we are still here—let’s eat! Join us for our TBI Purim celebrations.
For more information on learning more about Judaism or exploring the possibility of becoming a Jew, please contact Rabbi Kupetz.