The Purim festival is on of Israel’s most widely celebrated festival, this is a deeply important festival in the Jewish calendar and today we are going to take a look at why the festival holds such importance, and how it is celebrated.
The Significance of the Celebration
If possible, we will try to break the history of the celebration down in a nutshell. At its most basic level, this festival is to celebrate the survival of the Jewish people after a decree was issued by the King in the 4th Century BC to kill all of the Jews.
King Ahasuerus was the ruler of Persia during this time and when his wife, Queen Vashti disobeyed his orders, he had her executed. During a kind of beauty pageant to search for his next wife, he decided upon a Jewish girl named Esther who would become the new Queen, she never divulged her religious beliefs.
There was a man named Haman, an anti-Semite who rose to become the Prime Minster of the Empire and in one incident, the leader of the Jews, Mordechai, also the cousin of Esther, refused to bow to the Prime Minister because of his hatred for the Jews. Enraged and embarrassed, the Haman convinced the King to issue a decree that all Jews would be killed on the 13th day of the Adar – Interestingly this is where the name Purim or ‘lots’ comes from as the day was chosen by way of a lottery.
The Jews gathered behind Mordechai and Esther revealed her identity to both Haman and the King during a feast. The King reneged on the decree, had Haman killed and put Mordecai in his place as the Prime Minister. On the 14th day of the Adar, the Jews feasted like never before.
How it is Celebrated
To this day the Jews celebrate this festival on the 14th day of the Adar and there are 4 keys to how they celebrate
– Hear the Megillah
Jews head to synagogues all over Israel to hear the Megillah ( The book of Esther ) which tells the story of the Purim. When the name Haman is mentioned, it is customary that the Jews stamp their feet to eradicate his name
– Give to Those in Need
Jewish unity is a key theme here and during the celebrations for Purim it is customary to give to the needs. Jews must give food or money to at least 2 people during daylight hours and they must place at least 2 coins in a collection box.
– Send Food for Friends
The importance of togetherness and friendship is marked by sending food gifts to friends. Men send food to men and women to women and the food packages must contain at least two food items.
What better way to celebrate survival than to feast, and that is exactly what happens during Purim. The table should be well decorated and the food be plentiful as the Jewish people celebrate with friends and family in a great feast. Songs from the Torah are sung as they enjoy various meats and wines.
This sis the biggest festival in the Jewish calendar and if you are in Israel during this time then you can expect to see some grand celebrations.