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Celebrate Purim!

Judaism is a religion filled with joy. We read in the daily liturgy about the joy with which our ancestors praised God. The Psalmist says, “Happy are those who dwell in God’s house.” On Shabbat morning we read Yism’chu, a prayer extolling the joy of Shabbat. We actually are commanded to celebrate with bride and groom; joy is an integral part of the religious element of a Jewish wedding. Yet, with all of that joy, no holiday...no ceremony...no ritual brings us as much joy and fun as Purim.

This holiday has biblical origins in M’gillat Esther, the Book of Esther. The book, commonly called the M’gillah tells the story of how Esther, a thoroughly assimilated Persian Jew, rescued the Jews from the evil plot of Haman, one of the king’s ministers. Because the Book of Esther is a book of the Bible, we may be tempted to read it seriously. Yet, the M’gillah is best read as a farce, more caricatures than characters, more burlesque than biblical and more promiscuity than propriety. To that end, the story of Esther is acted out in synagogues around the world each year in the form of a Purim-spiel, a play poking fun at both the story of Esther and any number of contemporary topics.

It says in the M’gillah that Jews instituted a holiday in celebration of their victory over Haman: “They were to observe [14 and 15 Adar as] days of feasting and merrymaking, as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” In addition to hearing the M’gillah, the three main Purim observances arise from this verse. First, Jews are to send one another packages of food and gifts called mishloach manot to help spread the joy of the holiday. Second, Jews are to give gifts of matanot l’evyonim, of charity, to the poor. And finally, adults are supposed to make the day merry by drinking alcohol. While recent Jewish authorities encourage moderation, traditionally we are commanded to drink until we can no longer tell the difference between “Blessed is Mordecai” and “Cursed is Haman.”

This is a holiday when men dress like women, when we laugh in synagogue, when we make light of the Bible, when we send gifts to friends and family, when we do whatever is necessary to ensure a good time. We hope that the resources on our site will help you and your family make the most of this most joyous of Jewish holidays.

Chag Purim Sameach!
Happy Purim!

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