Purim – the Jewish Masquerade
Hamantaschen cookies or Haman’s ears, noisemaker and carnival masks for Purim celebration.
Purim is the celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people. This day is a commemoration of the miraculous rescue of the Jews in the Persian Kingdom over 2,400 years ago, during the reign of King Achashverosh (Ahasuers).
The holiday got its name from the word “Pur” – “lot”. By drawing a lot, king’s adviser Haman, had appointed a day – Adar 13th, when all Jews in Persia had to be exterminated.
It happened because Mordechai, a cousin of the wife of the King, Queen Esther, refused to kneel down before Haman. Haman was a prime minister of the Kingdom and one of the King’s advisers.
Haman had reported to the King that there are people in his kingdom who are too proud and irreverent, who refuse to bow down before a superior and asked for King’s permission to punish the Jews. He wanted that on the appointed day anyone could kill a Jew and take his property to himself. Ahashverosh had signed that edict lighthearted, as he didn’t know who the Jews were; neither had he known that his beloved wife Esther was Jewish.
Actually, because of Esther Mordechai spent days and nights near the palace. She was young, lonely and frightened, far away from home, and Mordechai promised to watch after her.
So happened, that one night Mordechai had overheard two guards plotting to kill the King. Immediately he denounced the plotters and his good deed was recorded in the Book of the palace. On one sleepless night, the King was reading those palace books and found out that his rescuer was never awarded. The King went to Haman for advise how should be rewarded a man to whom the King owes a lot. For some reason Haman decided that the King wants to reward him and said that such a person is necessary to bestow the most expensive clothes. Put him on a good horse and on that horse be held on the streets of the capital, proclaiming:”This is how the man who did a favor to the King should be treated!”
The king agreed and ordered Haman to reward Mordechai just as he said.
Haman became furious. He had already even picked the tree for Mordechai to hang him on it.
Mordechai told Esther about Haman’s plan and asked her to do everything in her power to save the Jews.
Esther arranged a sumptuous feast and invited the King and Haman. Ahasuerus was so impressed with the feast that promised to fulfill any Esther’s wish. Esther begged the king to repeal the decree about the extermination of the Jews.
Ahasuerus was furious with Haman and went to the garden to think about the situation. When the King returned, he found Haman in Queen Esther’s chambers. Haman was begging Esther for the intercession, but the King had accused him in an attempt to dishonor Esther and had ordered to hang Haman on the very same tree that was chosen for hanging Mordechai.
Because the King’s edict couldn’t be canceled, Ahasuerus had issued a new one: the Jews were allowed to defend their lives and their property and even to take all the assets of their offenders, in a case of defeating them.
Thus, the insidious plan of Haman to destroy the Jews had turned against him.
Since then this day became a Holiday to remember the miraculous rescue of the Jews and the wisdom of Queen Esther.
On Purim it is accustomed to give baskets with sweets, hold Purim parades and masquerades, eat a special triangular pastry called hamantashen (Haman’s ears) and drink plenty of wine. They say “one should drink enough wine to become unable to tell Haman’s curses from Mordechai’s blessings”.
The tradition to wear masquerade costumes on Purim evolved from the fact that many events of that legend were about deception and disguise. Esther had hidden her Jewish origins from the King and Mordechai had hidden his knowledge of all worlds’ languages, which allowed him to understand the conversation between the two guards about their plot against the King.
But the most important tradition on Purim is reading the Megillat Esther (the book of Esther). This book should to be read aloud, which is considered to be a Mitzvah (a good deed).
Purim is a celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people and a recognition of one of the most fascinating cautionary stories ever told.