This year Purim begins at sundown on March 11. It is one of the lesser known Jewish celebrations, at least to us outside the faith. The story of Purim is found in the book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. It is really too long and complicated to summarize in this blog, but if you are unfamiliar with the tale you can read it here. I’ve made the link to The Message version because in, my opinion, it is the most readable to modern ears. The very very short version of the story is that the Jews in exile in Babylon at the time of King Xerxes were under threat of death and the young and beautiful Jewish woman who was Queen took her life in her hands to ask the King to spare her people. The story ends well for the Jews, but badly for Haman who was planning to wipe them out.
In modern times, Purim is a time of celebration, and to dress in your best clothes. According to Chabad.org, there are four special things to do on this day.
- Head to the synagogue to hear the Megillah, the book of Esther. This is not read but sung in Hebrew, using an age-old tune. You can hear it here. When Haman’s name is mentioned, you can twirl graggers (noisemakers) or stamp your feet to eradicate his evil name.
- Giving to the less fortunate. It is the custom to celebrate their deliverance by giving to at least two people or making a donation to the charity box in the synagogue. Children are encouraged to take part in this activity.
- In addition to giving to strangers, people give gifts of food to friends. Again, children are encouraged to participate by delivering the food.
- And last is a great feast for family and guests.
So all in all, Purim is a time for celebration and joy. I wish you all a happy Purim!
I couldn’t really find any quotes about Purim, but here are quotes about the Jews
The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was…–Mark Twain
The Jews started it all—and by “it” I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and aethiest, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings … we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.–Thomas Cahill
The Jews proved not only unassimilated, but inassimilable, and… the demonstration that this was so proved one of the most significant turning points in Greek history, owing to the gigantic influence exerted throughout subsequent ages by their religion, which not only survived intact, but subsequently gave birth to Christianity as well.–Michael Grant
So prominent was the Jewish role in the foreign commerce of Europe that those nations that received the Jews gained and the countries that excluded them lost in the volume of international trade.–Will Durant
The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolutely peculiar conditions and the fateful role played by them in history; all these point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny…– Nicholai Berdysev
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