14th day of Adar - “The Feast of Lots”
Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar, as it celebrates the story of two heroes, Esther and Mordecai, and how their courage and actions saved the Jewish people living in Persia from execution. The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther, and the main story begins when the king of Persia, Ahasuerus, sends his wife Vashti away for disobeying him. The King chooses Esther to be his new wife, and without revealing her Jewish identity to the King, she becomes the queen of Persia.
Haman, the king’s prime minister, became upset when Mordecai (Esther’s
cousin) refused to bow down to him, (as worshiping idols is against Jewish law). This was not acceptable to Haman, so in a plot to destroy the Jewish people, Haman went to the King and told him “There is a 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.” The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased. Haman planned to exterminate all the Jews.
Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous request, as the King had not “summoned” her to speak to him, and her Jewish identity had not been known to the King. However, Esther was courageous and went to the king. She revealed her own Jewish identity to the King and revealed Haman’s plot against her people. The King was outraged at Haman, and he issued a decree to make Haman the victim of his own plot. Haman and his sons were hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai and the Jews.
The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to
choose the date for killing the Jewish people. The Jews are saved and Mordechai declares the 14th day of Adar a day for rejoicing and celebrating, as Purim.
During this holiday, it is customary to dress up in costume, eat hamentachen
(fruit-filled pastries), send Mishloach Manot (gift baskets), and read the Megillah (story of Esther). It is also customary during the reading of the Megillah to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle graggers whenever the name of Haman is mentioned.