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Adar 14, February/March

Purim (from Akkadian for “lots,” as in “casting lots”) celebrates the victory of Mordechai and Esther over Haman as described in the scroll (megillah) of Esther—from the “Writings” section of the Bible. 

The story begins in Shushan when the Persian Queen Vashti was banished by King Ahasuerus. The king held a beauty contest and married the winner, Esther, who—unbeknownst to him—was Jewish. Around this same time, Haman became a prominent advisor to the king, but Mordechai (Esther’s protector) refused to accept his power.

In retaliation for Mordechai’s refusal, Haman convinced King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews in the region. Mordechai and Esther worked to counteract this plan. Their strategy included Esther’s seduction of the king with food and wine, along with a confession that she was Jewish. Esther persuaded him not to kill her and the Jews of Shushan. Instead, the king ruled that Haman should be hanged. Mordechai and Esther proclaimed Purim a holiday to celebrate.

Although this story is probably a myth, the holiday is celebrated with merriment, costumes, gifts, and treats – especially hamantaschen, pastries in the shape of Haman’s hat.

The megillah is read on Purim; and whenever Haman’s name is said, everyone shakes groggers (noisemakers) to fulfill the curse “may his name be drowned out.”

Press play to hear the pronunciation: