Saturday, February 16, 2013

A funny look at the story of Purim

This is a blog post that I wrote for you to use in your classrooms!  Have Fun!  Rachael Alice 

Purim is the Jewish holiday of joy.  Everyone is happy on Purim!  There are many customs of Purim that are very interesting.  This is the one holiday in the Jewish calendar which happened outside Israel in Persia, but it is a beloved holiday by kids and adults alike.
Purim actually starts with a sad occasion, the Fast of Esther.  It usually falls upon the day before Purim, but this year because the holiday itself falls on Sunday, we don't fast on Shabbat, and then if we were to fast on Friday we wouldn't be able to taste the food that we are preparing for Shabbat, the fast actually falls on Thursday this year.  If we have to be sad, then let's make it a regular weekday and not a preparing for Shabbat day!   The Fast of Esther is a remembrance of the three days of fasting the Esther and her servants, as well as all the Jews of Shushan did in those times.

The Story of Purim

The story starts with the King Ahashverosh who was king over 127 provinces, from India to  Eithopia. He had finished conquering all those countries, so he decided to give a big party lasting 180 days.  He invited all the subjects of the capital city, Shushan, which is in present day Iran, to come to the banquet.  He put on a great show. with food, wine and for entertainment, he wanted the Queen Vashti to come in her "royal crown."  Maybe that's all she was supposed to wear?  Well, the Queen was also in the middle of a party, and it is said that she had grown a long tail, so she didn't want to show that off, and didn't go to the King's banquet.  There was a law in those days that if you didn't obey the king you would be killed.  One of  Ahashverosh's ministers voted to kill the queen, and that's what happened.   The King, then felt bad about what happened to Vashti, wanted another queen.  He sent out to all the beautiful young maidens in the country, who came to the king for one night.   Each one had to come to the king, and if the king asked for her by name, she would be able to come back.  If not, well, she went to the house of the concubines, and was never seen again. King Ahashverosh, even had the Jewish maidens collected and they had to go to the king.  Esther, (Hadassah) who had grown up in the house of her uncle Mordechai, was told by him not to tell anyone that she was Jewish.  She was a very modest girl, and did as she was told. She went into the king on her appointed day, and he was so taken by her that he made her the Queen!

Of course Mordechai, was very worried what was going on in the palace, and he sat there everyday, waiting for news. While he was at the palace gates, he heard about a plot to murder the King and told it to Esther through a messenger.  She told the king, the plotters were found out and hung.  Everything was written down in the book of records. In the mean time, King Ahashverosh appointed a new Prime Minister, Haman.  He gave Hamen his signet ring and power over the kingdom to do as he pleased.  He wanted everyone to bow down to him.  It turns out the Haman when he saw Mordechai sitting at the palace gates, he got very angry, and since Mordechai wouldn't bow down, not only did Haman get angry at Mordechai, but at all the Jews.  He sat with the King convincing him to kill all the Jews.  The only problem that Haman wanted to find out was what day to kill all the Jews.  So he and the King set up a lot, to figure out the day.  The day fell on the 15 of Adar, and the law was written out and sent to all the 127 countries that on that day all the people would fall upon the Jews and kill them all.

Mordechai heard about the new law, and told Esther that she had to go to the King and get him to rescind the law.  She remembered what happened to Vashti when she didn't obey the king and didn't want to go.  If a person had not been summoned by the king, then they had to stand and wait until the king would raise his scepter, then the person could talk to the king.  If the king didn't want to talk to the person, they would be taken away and killed.  So, it was quite risky, because Esther had not seen the king for over 30 days, and it seemed that he had forgotten about her.
Mordechai convinces her to go to the king, but Esther puts the condition that all the Jews in Shushan have to fast three days. (That's were we get the Fast of Esther, but we have to do only one day:) )  After the three days, Esther goes to the king, his face lights up as he sees her, and she invites him to a wine feast, alone with Haman.  Haman hears this and is ecstatic.  He goes home full of joy, until he meets Mordechai in  the palace gates.  Mordechai does not bow down, and Haman seethes with anger.  He had a gallows built at his house, and then prepares to go  the feast with a light heart. Nothing is said much at this first banquet, so Esther asks for a second one.  The king however is also troubled in his sleep, and since he can't sleep, he calls for his book of records, hears about the plot against him, and wants to reward Mordechai.  He sees Haman working in the courtyard, (finishing the gallows) and has him come in to the king. Haman runs to the king, thinking that the king wants to reward him for something.  The king does indeed want to reward someone, and asks what should be done.  Haman says what is nearest and dearest to his heart, he wants to ride the kings's horse, wear the king's clothes and wear the kings' crown. someone should run in front and declare in a loud voice,"This is what the King does to those who please him!"  The king agrees with all this and then the bombshell drops,  Do all this for Mordechai!  Haman almost plotzes!

This is done and Haman comes home broken hearted.  He is covered in shit that his daughter had   thrown down by accident, and then he is asked who was the man that was on the horse?  He says that it was Mordechai, the Jew.

Haman then goes to the second banquet, with a heavy heart.  At this banquet, the ball drops, and Esther gives the news that she and her people are to be killed because of Haman.  The king is angry, storms out to the courtyard, Haman falls upon Esther's chaise lounge begging for forgiveness, and just at that time, the King returns, sees Haman on the Queen and has him taken to be hung on the nearest gallows, which happens to be the one that Haman had built for Mordechai.   The Queen introduces Mordechai who becomes Prime Minister.  They try to get the law about the 15 of Adar cancelled, but it can't be done, but instead the King allows the Jews to defend themselves on that day.  The Jewish community gets the new law written down and sent to all 127 countries in all the languages, and then they wait, and when the people rise up to kill the Jews, the Jews are ready.

When the 15 of Adar rolls around after about 6 to 9 months, the Anti-Semites rise up and try to get the Jews but they are well prepared. There is a rout and 10 of Haman's sons are killed.  The King goes to Mordechai and Esther and says to them that now all the enemies are done away with is that enough?  No, Esther says that in Shushan they need an extra day, so the King says whatever, and now the 10 sons of Haman are hung, and there is a second day of fighting.  At then end of the end, Esther and Mordechai write the story of Purim that we have now, as the Megilla, and in all the world Purim is celebrated on the 14 of Adar, and in Jerusalem on the 16th.  

This year, we celebrate everything late because Purim itself cannot be held on Shabbat with the money being given to the poor, and the giving of food gifts.  So we have a split up Purim with the Fast of Esther being on the Thursday before and then Purim itself on Sunday, and in Jerusalem on Monday, this is the closest that Israelis get to a long weekend! 

So that is the story of Purim in a nutshell.  (ok, a rather big nutshell)
How do we celebrate Purim?  First we do the fast, then we go hear the story of Purim read from the Scroll of Esther in the synagogue, and then we start to P A R T Y!  One of the customs is to drink so much that you can't tell the difference between Bless Mordechai and Curse Haman.
The next day (rather late in the morning so that the adults can sleep in), the kids give out food gifts, give money to the poor, and have another party.  Maybe not as much wine and whiskey at this one.  The kids dress up in costumes and have a great time.

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