PURIM (JEWISH FESTIVAL)
Quick Facts : Purim (Jewish Festival)
- Date: Mar 24, 2016
- Also Called:
- Celebrations: Listening to the Book of Esther, Gift exchange, making donation to poor, Wearing interesting outfi
Purim is a Jewish festival which is celebrated to commemorate the protection of Jewish people from Haman, according to Hebrew Bible- the Book of Esther. The day is celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Adar according to Jewish calendar. In Jerusalem, the festival is celebrated on the 15th day of Adar.
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, who was a confidante of King Ahasuerus, hatched a plan to terminate all the Jews the King's empire. However, his plans of exterminating the Jews from the empire were thwarted by Mordecai and Queen Esther, who was Mordicai's adopted daughter. Thus, the Jews achieved victory over their enemies and hence, the following day became a day to celebrate and rejoice.
Although the origins of Purim are with religious connotations, the celebrations of the festival are more nationalistic than of religious value. Thus, even though the day is a designated holiday for schools and government offices, businesses continue to function normally on this day.
One of the most important traditions of the day is hearing to the public reading of the Book of Esther. Historically, the public reading of the book was done on Purim only. After the recommendations of Rabbi Joshua in 3rd century BC, the Book of Esther began to be read on the day prior to Purim as well. That tradition continues till this day.
Another interesting part about the tradition is the obligation for women to read the book. In orthodox Jewish cultures, women are generally discouraged from reading the book. Owing to the participation of a woman, Queen Esther, in protecting the Jews, it is mandatory for women to read the Book of Esther on Purim.
Other than that, gifts are exchanged between family and friends. While different kinds of gifts are exchanged between friends and relatives, it is obligatory to exchange food gifts on this day. The probable reason behind this obligation is the fact that the day after the Jewish victory of Haman, people rejoiced and exchanged gifts, of which food was a major part.
People are also encouraged to make donations to the poor on this day. In fact, helping poor people on Purim is one of the four obligations as laid down by the Jewish religion. The fourth obligation is having a festive meal on the day, in order to rejoice the victory of Jews over their enemy.
While the obligations of the day date back to years ago, several modern traditions have emerged for Purim over time. An interesting Purim tradition is that of masquerading in interesting outfits. Some believe that the tradition originated somewhere in the 15th century when Italian Jews started emulating the European carnival. Others believe that this is done in order to emulate the fateful day, when God disguised Himself in order to protect the Jews from Haman.