Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PURIM, the Festival of Lots

As written in the Book of Esther, it means a "lot.” Purim is the plural form of the word `Pur', and thus means "lots.” The festival is called Purim because of the lots cast by Haman. The word Pur is also related to the Hebrew word `porer,' which means to dismantle, break, destroy, or break into crumbs.


Purim is around the corner. It has few reverberations outside of Synagogues and Hebrew schools in the United States. But when I was growing up in Israel, it was THE HOLIDAY for us kids. Think of it as Halloween for dress-up and merry making, and then take out the ghoulish creepers. Unless you consider the historic back story, which is re-told and re-read in synagogues at that time, and includes the first of many hateful men who set out to kill all the Jews.


When the miserable haters bent on destroying us are part of a people’s reality from time immemorial to today, we don’t need skeletons and zombies to make merry. Besides, this is a story of triumph over adversity. I still remember the end of the story, with its joyous exclamations about Haman being hung from a tall tree along with all his children. I remember NOT being too happy about that, but I got over it with some delicious Hamantaschen (literally, cookies shaped like Haman’s ears) and the promise of competing in Best Costume with a prize to boot.

I did win first prize once, in fifth grade. For the life of me I can’t understand why. I can only assume my “Mad Man in Pajamas” was so pathetic it was a pity-prize.


While we ate our rectangular filled cookies, the grown-ups were commanded to get so drunk they could not tell the difference between the evil Haman and the pious Mordechai. That’s the same as between the bad and the good, and the injunction to drink was a commandment, not a suggestion, folks.


Add to it that this holiday is named for “lots,” and extend that to the lottery, gambling, and other vices-- and you get one happy party. That it sometimes fell on or near my birthday didn’t hurt.


What can I say? I miss it.


  1. I'm very familiar with the story of Esther, but had never heard details about how the Jewish community celebrates the holiday. Thanks for sharing with us. Wishing you a very happy Purim, my friend.

  2. Thanks for sharing and explaining the holiday!

  3. I love the story of Esther, but didn't know about the ear cookies! LOL. Thank you for sharing the Jewish traditions and wishing you a Happy Purim!!!

  4. This is very interesting, Mirka. Happy Purim and happy birthday to you, dear girl! I'm currently reading a memoir about a New York City girl who goes to Israel and joins the army. I'll be reviewing it this summer as part of her blog tour. It's given me another look at Israel, this country that fascinates me so.

  5. What prize did you win? I thought the Hamantaschen were the shape of Haman's hat. :-) Happy Purim, Mirka!

    1. I got a box of cookies and the right to call myself First Prize Winner for the day...
      Well, in Hebrew it is OZNEI HAMAN, literally "Haman's Ears." You can imagine the joy of us kids thinking the poppy seed filling stood for how dirty his ears were. :D

  6. I can't believe I've never heard of this holiday. Thanks for sharing, Mirka. I love learning new things.

  7. I've always loved the story of Esther. Thanks for highlighting this fun festival! And congrats on being the First Prize Winner for a day. =)

  8. It's so cool hearing these traditions. Thank you and Happy Purim.