At Central Synagogue

About the Holiday

The holiday of Purim falls on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar. The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther and accordingly, on the holiday, the Megillah(scroll) of Esther is read. Like many Jewish holidays, Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from near destruction. The imperative of the holiday is to celebrate (in fact, the Talmud tells us, “When Adar arrives, our joy increases”), and the great extent to which we do so has elevated Purim from a once minor festival to a well-known, immensely joyous holiday.

Purim commemorates Jewish survival against the odds. It is not a unique holiday in that sense (Chanukah, too, shares this theme) but has several distinctive aspects. The Book of Esther is the only book in the Hebrew Bible in which God is not mentioned. For this reason, Purim is a holiday where anything goes - inebriation and ridiculous behavior are actually encouraged! The villain in the story, Haman, has become the embodiment of all evil anti-Semites throughout history, and Purim is recognized as the ultimate affirmation of survival. Purim is the only holiday in Judaism in which it is customary to wear costumes. And, unlike all other holidays, the joy of Purim is so great that tradition says it will be celebrated even in Messianic times.


Themes of Purim

  • The will and capacity of the Jewish people to survive

  • Victory and deliverance from anti-Semitism

  • Leadership and the power of humanity and courage

  • K’lal Yisrael (each Jew is responsible for the other)

  • Ways to Celebrate Purim

    Observe the four mitzvot of Purim:

    1. Listen to the Megillah read publicly in the synagogue. The reading is creative and interactive. For example, whenever Haman’s name is read, we attempt to “blot it out” by making some kind of noise (such as foot stomping, boos, groggers, or yelling).

    2. Eat a festive meal. Also, drink and be merry! The Talmud says we are supposed to become so intoxicated that we “can no longer tell the difference between ‘Blessed is Mordecai’ (the righteous hero) and ‘Cursed is Haman’ (the evil villain).” Megillah 7b.

    3. Send Mishloach Manot(gifts of food) to friends, family, and those in need.

    4. Give Tzedakah.

    Attend a Purim spiel - a theatrical presentation of the Purim story.

    Dress up as one of the characters in the Purim story, or as something else.

    Attend a Purim Carnival.

    Bake and eat Hamentaschen, the three-pointed cookie reminiscent of Hamen’s hat.

    Masks! Flasks! Festivities!

    Purim is a joyous Jewish holiday, when all things silly are embraced and the only thing we take seriously is the celebrating!