פּוּרִים (help·info) Pûrîm "lots", from the
word פור pur, related to Akkadian: pūru) is a Jewish holiday
that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was
planning to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient
Achaemenid Persian Empire. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book
(מגילת אסתר Megillat Ester in Hebrew).
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King
Ahasuerus/Achashverosh (presumed to be
Persia, "Khshayarsha" and "Artakhsher" in Old Persian
respectively) planned to kill all the
in the empire,
but his plans were foiled by
and his cousin and adopted
daughter Esther, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of
deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
Based on the conclusions of the Scroll of Esther: "[...] that they
should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending
portions one to another, and gifts to the poor,"
Exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot
Donating charity to the poor known as mattanot la-evyonim
Eating a celebratory meal known as a se'udat Purim
Public recitation ("reading of the megillah") of the Scroll of Esther,
known as kriat ha-megillah, usually in synagogue
Reciting additions, known as Al HaNissim, to the daily prayers and the
grace after meals
Other customs include drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage,
wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.
Purim is celebrated annually according to the
Hebrew calendar on the
14th day of the Hebrew month of
Adar (and on
Adar II in Hebrew leap
years that take place every two to three years), the day following the
victory of the
Jews over their enemies. In cities that were protected
by a surrounding wall at the time of the Biblical Joshua,
instead celebrated on the 15th of the month of
Adar on what is known
Shushan Purim, since fighting in the walled city of Shushan
continued through the 14th day of Adar. Today, only
Jerusalem and a
few other cities celebrate
Purim on the 15th of Adar.
2 Historical views
2.1 Traditional historians
2.2 Biblical minimalist view
3 Scriptural and rabbinical sources
4.1 Reading of the Megillah
4.1.1 Blessings before Megillah reading
4.1.2 Blessing and recitations after Megillah reading
4.1.3 Women and Megillah reading
4.1.4 Blotting out Haman's name
4.2 Food gifts and charity
Purim meal (se'udah) and festive drinking
5.3 Burning of Haman's effigy
5.7 Traditional foods
5.8 Iranian Jews
6 In Jerusalem
7 Other Purims
7.2 Communal and familial Purims
8 In recent history
9 In the media
10 See also
10.1 Extensions of festivals similar to
10.2 Persian(ate) Jewry
12 External links
The Triumph of Mordechai, painting by Pieter Pietersz Lastman
Book of Esther
Book of Esther begins with a six-month (180-day) drinking feast
given by King
Ahasuerus for the army of
Persia and Medea and the civil
servants and princes in the 127 provinces of his kingdom, concluding
with a seven-day drinking feast for the inhabitants of
rich and poor, and a separate drinking feast for the women organized
Vashti in the pavilion of the royal courtyard.
At this feast
Ahasuerus gets thoroughly drunk, and at the prompting of
his courtiers, orders his wife
Vashti to display her beauty before the
nobles and populace, wearing her royal crown (the Rabbis of the Oral
Torah understand this that he wanted her to only be wearing her royal
crown, meaning she would be naked, something she would have wanted to
do, but due to a skin condition she refuses to do). Her refusal
Ahasuerus to have her removed from her post.
orders all young women to be presented to him, so he can choose a new
queen to replace Vashti. One of these is Esther, who was orphaned at a
young age and was being fostered by her first cousin Mordecai. Some
rabbinic commentators state that she was actually Mordecai's wife,
Torah permits an uncle to marry his niece. She finds favor
in the king's eyes, and is made his new wife.
Esther does not reveal
her origins and that she is Jewish.
Mordecai discovers a plot by two palace guards
Bigthan and Teresh
Bigthan and Teresh to kill Ahasuerus. They are apprehended and hanged,
and Mordecai's service to the king is recorded in the daily record of
Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his viceroy. Mordecai, who sits at the
palace gates, falls into Haman's disfavor as he refuses to bow down to
him. Having found out that
Mordecai is Jewish, Haman plans to kill not
Mordecai but the entire Jewish minority in the empire. Obtaining
Ahasuerus' permission and funds to execute this plan, he casts lots
("purim") to choose the date on which to do this – the thirteenth of
the month of Adar. When
Mordecai finds out about the plans, he puts on
sackcloth and ashes, a sign of mourning, publicly weeping and
lamenting, and many other
Shushan and other parts of
Ahasuerus' empire do likewise, with widespread penitence and fasting.
Esther discovers what has transpired; there follows an exchange of
messages between her and Mordecai, with Hatach, one of the palace
servants, as the intermediary.
Mordecai requests that she intercede
with the king on behalf of the embattled Jews; she replies that nobody
is allowed to approach the king, under penalty of death. Mordecai
warns her that she will not be any safer in the palace than any other
Jew, says that if she keeps silent, salvation for the
Jews will arrive
from some other quarter but "you and your father's house will perish,"
and suggests that she was elevated to the position of queen to be of
help in just such an emergency.
Esther has a change of heart, says she
will fast and pray for three days and will then approach the king to
seek his help, despite the law against doing so, and "if I perish, I
perish." She also requests that
Mordecai tell all
fast and pray for three days together with her. On the third day, she
seeks an audience with Ahasuerus, during which she invites him to a
feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asks them to
attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again
offended by Mordecai's refusal to bow to him; egged on by his wife
Zeresh and unidentified friends, he builds a gallows for Mordecai,
with the intention to hang him there the very next day.
Ahasuerus suffers from insomnia, and when the court's
daily records are read to him to help him fall asleep, he learns of
the services rendered by
Mordecai in the earlier plot against his
Ahasuerus asks whether anything was done for
Mordecai and is
told that he received no recognition for saving the king's life. Just
then, Haman appears, and King
Ahasuerus asks him what should be done
for the man that the king wishes to honor. Thinking that the king is
referring to Haman himself, Haman says that the honoree should be
dressed in the king's royal robes and led around on the king's royal
horse. To Haman's horror, the king instructs Haman to render such
honors to Mordecai.
Later that evening,
Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther's second
banquet, at which she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is
planning to exterminate her people, which includes her. Ahasuerus
becomes enraged and instead orders Haman hanged on the gallows that he
had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jewish
people could not be annulled, so the King allows
Mordecai and Esther
to write another decree as they wish. They decree that Jewish people
may preemptively kill those thought to pose a lethal risk. As a
result, on 13 Adar, five hundred attackers and Haman's ten sons are
killed in Shushan. Throughout the empire 75,000 of the Jewish peoples'
enemies are killed. On the 14th, another 300 are killed in
Shushan. No spoils are taken.
Mordecai assumes the position of second in rank to Ahasuerus, and
institutes an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jewish
people from annihilation.
Berossus (early third century BCE) provides context for the account in
that he records the introduction of idols of
Anahita under Artaxerxes
II Mnemon throughout the Persian Empire.
The first-century CE historian
Josephus recounts the origins of Purim
in Book 11 of his Antiquities of the Jews. He follows the Hebrew Book
Esther but shows awareness of some of the additional material found
in the Greek version (the Septuagint) in that he too identifies
Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes and provides the text of the king's letter. He
also provides additional information on the dating of events relative
to Ezra and Nehemiah.
Josephus also records the Persian
Jews and mentions
Jews being forced to worship at
Persian erected shrines.
The Josippon, a tenth-century CE compilation of Jewish history,
includes an account of the origins of
Purim in its chapter 4. It too
follows the original biblical account and includes additional
traditions matching those found in the Greek version and Josephus
(whom the author claims as a source) with the exception of the details
of the letters found in the latter works. It also provides other
contextual information relating to Jewish and Persian history such as
the identification of
Darius the Mede
Darius the Mede as the uncle and father-in-law
A brief Persian account of events is provided by Islamic historian
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari in his History of the Prophets and Kings
(completed 915 CE). Basing his account on Jewish and Christian
sources, al-Tabari provides additional details such as the original
Persian form "Asturya" for "Esther". He places events during the
rule of Ardashir Bahman (Artaxerxes II), but confuses him with
Ardashir al-Tawil al-Ba (Artaxerxes I), while assuming
Ahasuerus to be
the name of a co-ruler. Another brief Persian account is recorded
The Meadows of Gold (completed 947 CE). He refers to
a Jewish woman who had married the Persian King Bahman (Artaxerxes
II), and delivered her people, thus corroborating this
identification of Ahasuerus. He also mentions the woman's daughter,
Khumay, who is not known in Jewish tradition but is well remembered in
Persian folklore. Al-Tabari calls her Khumani and tells how her father
(Ardashir Bahman) married her.
Ferdowsi in his
Shahnameh (c. 1000 CE)
also tells of King Bahman marrying Khumay.
Nineteenth-century Bible commentaries generally identify Ahasuerus
Xerxes I of Persia.
Biblical minimalist view
Biblical minimalists argue that
Purim does not actually have a
Amnon Netzer and Shaul Shaked argue that the names
"Mordecai" and "Esther" are similar to those of the Babylonian gods
Marduk and Ishtar. Scholars W.S. McCullough, Muhammad
Dandamayev and Shaul Shaked say that the
Book of Esther
Book of Esther (despite its
accurate details of the Achaemenid court) is historical
Amélie Kuhrt says the
Book of Esther
Book of Esther was
composed in the Hellenistic period and it shows a perspective of
Persian court identical to classical Greek books. Shaul Shaked
says the date of composition of the book is unknown, but most likely
not much after the fall of the Achaemenid kingdom, during the Parthian
period, perhaps in the third or second century BCE McCullough also
Herodotus recorded the name of Xerxes’s queen as
Amestris (the daughter of Otanes) and not as Esther. Scholars
Albert I. Baumgarten and S. David Sperling and R.J. Littman say that,
according to Herodotus, Xerxes could only marry a daughter of one of
the six allies of his father Darius I.
Scriptural and rabbinical sources
The primary source relating to the origin of
Purim is the Book of
Esther, which became the last of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible to
be canonized by the Sages of the Great Assembly. It is dated to the
fourth century BCE and according to the
Talmud was a redaction by
Great Assembly of an original text by Mordechai.
The Tractate Megillah in the
Mishnah (redacted c. 200 CE) records the
laws relating to Purim. The accompanying
Tosefta (redacted in the same
Gemara (in the
Jerusalem and Babylonian
Talmud redacted c.
400 CE and c. 600 CE respectively) record additional contextual
details such as Queen
Vashti having been the daughter of
well as details that accord with Josephus' such as
Esther having been
of royal descent. Brief mention of
Esther is made in Tractate Hullin
Hullin 139b) and idolatry relating to worship of Haman is
discussed in Tractate
Esther Rabbah is a Midrashic text divided in two parts. The
first part dated to c. 500 CE provides an exegetical commentary on the
first two chapters of the Hebrew
Book of Esther
Book of Esther and provided source
material for the
Targum Sheni. The second part may have been redacted
as late as the eleventh century CE and contains commentary on the
remaining chapters of Esther. It too contains the additional
contextual material found in the
Josippon (a chronicle of Jewish
history from Adam to the age of
Titus believed to have been written by
Josippon or Joseph ben Gorion).
Orthodox Jewish men celebrate
Purim party at Bnei Brak in Israel
Purim has more of a national than a religious character, and its
status as a holiday is on a different level than those days ordained
holy by the Torah. Hallel is not recited. Accordingly, business
transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim. A special
prayer ("Al ha-Nissim"—"For the Miracles") is inserted into the
Amidah prayers during evening, morning and afternoon prayer services,
and is also included in the
Birkat Hamazon ("Grace after Meals.")
The four main mitzvot (obligations) of the day are:
Listening to the public reading, usually in synagogue, of the Book of
Esther in the evening and again in the following morning (k'riat
Sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot)
Giving charity to the poor (matanot la'evyonim)
Eating a festive meal (se`udat mitzvah)
The three latter obligations only apply during the daytime hours of
Reading of the Megillah
Purim in the streets of Jerusalem
The first religious ceremony ordained for the celebration of
the reading of the
Book of Esther
Book of Esther (the "Megillah") in the synagogue, a
regulation ascribed in the
Talmud (Megillah 2a) to the Sages of the
Great Assembly, of which
Mordecai is reported to have been a member.
Originally this enactment was for the 14th of
Adar only; later,
Joshua ben Levi (3rd century CE) prescribed that the
Megillah should also be read on the eve of Purim. Further, he obliged
women to attend the reading of the Megillah, because women were also
part of the miracle. The commentaries offer two approaches to the role
of women in the miracle. The first is that it was a lady, Queen
Esther, through whom the miraculous deliverance of the
accomplished (Rashbam). The second is that the women were also
threatened by the genocidal decree and therefore equal beneficiaries
of the miracle (Tosafot).
In the Mishnah, the recitation of a benediction on the reading of the
Megillah is not yet a universally recognized obligation. However, the
Talmud, a later work, prescribed three benedictions before the reading
and one benediction after the reading. The
Talmud added other
provisions. For example, the reader is to pronounce the names of the
ten sons of Haman in one breath, to indicate their simultaneous
death. An additional custom that probably began in Medieval times is
that the congregation recites aloud with the reader the verses Esther
Esther 8:15–16, and
Esther 10:3, which relate the origin of
Mordecai and his triumph.
The Megillah is read with a cantillation (a traditional chant)
differing from that used in the customary reading of the Torah.
Besides the traditional cantillation, there are several verses or
short phrases in the Megillah that are chanted in a different chant,
the chant that is traditional for the reading of the book of
Lamentations. These verses are particularly sad, or they refer to Jews
being in exile. When the Megillah reader jumps to the melody of the
book of Lamentations for these phrases, it heightens the feeling of
sadness in the listener.
In some places,[where?] the Megillah is not chanted, but is read like
a letter, because of the name iggeret ("epistle"), which is
applied to the Book of Esther. It has been also customary since
the time of the early Medieval era of the
Geonim to unroll the whole
Megillah before reading it, in order to give it the appearance of an
epistle. According to halakha (Jewish law), the Megillah may be read
in any language intelligible to the audience.
According to the
Mishnah (Megillah 30b),><refExodus
17:8–16</ref> the story of the attack on the
Jews by Amalek,
the progenitor of Haman, is also to be read.
Blessings before Megillah reading
Before the reading of the Megillah on Purim, both at night and again
in the morning, the reader of the Megillah recites the following three
blessings and at the end of each blessing the congregation then
responds by answering "Amen" after each of the blessings. At the
morning reading of the Megillah the congregation should have in mind
that the third blessing applies to the other observances of the day as
well as to the reading of the Megillah:
ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם אשר
קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על מקרא מגלה
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has
sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us regarding the
reading of the Megillah.
ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם שעשה
נסים לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has
wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.
ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם שהחינו
וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has kept
us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.
Blessing and recitations after Megillah reading
After the Megillah reading, each member of the congregation who has
heard the reading recites the following blessing. This blessing is
not recited unless a minyan was present for the Megillah reading:
ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם האל הרב
את ריבנו והדן את דיננו והנוקם את
נקמתינו והמשלם גמול לכל איבי נפשנו
והנפרע לנו מצרינו ברוך אתה יהוה הנפרע
לעמו ישראל מכל צריהם האל המושיע
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, (the God) Who
takes up our grievance, judges our claim, avenges our wrong; Who
brings just retribution upon all enemies of our soul and exacts
vengeance for us from our foes. Blessed are You Hashem, Who exacts
vengeance for His people Israel from all their foes, the God Who
After the nighttime Megillah reading the following two paragraphs are
The first one is an acrostic poem that starts with each letter of the
Hebrew alphabet, starting with "Who balked (... אשר הניא) the
counsel of the nations and annulled the counsel of the cunning. When a
wicked man stood up against us (... בקום עלינו), a wantonly
evil branch of Amalek's offspring ..." and ending with "The rose of
Jacob (ששנת יעקב) was cheerful and glad, when they jointly saw
Mordechai robed in royal blue. You have been their eternal salvation
(תשועתם היית לנצח), and their hope throughout
The second is recited at night, but after the morning Megillah reading
only this is recited:
The rose of Jacob was cheerful and glad, when they jointly saw
Mordechai robed in royal blue. You have been their eternal salvation,
and their hope throughout generations.
At night and in the morning:
שושנת יעקב צהלה ושמחה בראותם יחד תכלת
מרדכי. תשועתם היית לנצח ותקותם בכל דור
ודור. להודיע שכל קויך לא יבשו ולא יכלמו
לנצח כל החוסים בך. ארור המן אשר בקש
לאבדי ברוך מרדכי היהודי. ארורה זרש אשת
מפחידי ברוכה אסתר בעדי וגם חרבונה זכור
To make known that all who hope in You will not be shamed
(להודיע שכל קויך לא יבשו); nor ever be humiliated,
those taking refuge in You. Accursed be Haman who sought to destroy
me, blessed be Mordechai the Yehudi. Accursed be
Zeresh the wife of my
terrorizer, blessed be
Esther who sacrificed for me - and Charvonah,
too, be remembered for good (וגם חרבונה זכור לטוב)
[for suggesting to the King that Haman be hanged on the gallows.]
Women and Megillah reading
Women have an obligation to hear the Megillah because "they also were
involved in that miracle." Most Orthodox communities, including
Modern Orthodox ones, however, generally do not allow women to lead
the Megillah reading except in rare circumstances owing to the notion
of "Kavod HaTzibbur" ("respect for the community"). Rabbinic
authorities who hold that women should not read the Megillah for
themselves, because of an uncertainty as to which blessing they should
recite upon the reading, nonetheless agree that they have an
obligation to hear it read. According to these authorities if women,
or men for that matter, cannot attend the services in the synagogue,
the Megillah should be read for them in private by any male over the
age of thirteen. Often in Orthodox communities there is a special
public reading only for women, conducted either in a private home or
in a synagogue, but the Megillah is read by a man.
Some Modern Orthodox leaders have held that women can serve as public
Megillah readers. Women's megillah readings have become increasingly
common in more liberal Modern Orthodox Judaism, though women may only
read for other women, according to Ashkenazi authorities.
Blotting out Haman's name
When Haman's name is read out loud during the public chanting of the
Megillah in the synagogue, which occurs 54 times, the congregation
engages in noise-making to blot out his name. The practice can be
traced back to the
Tosafists (the leading French and German rabbis of
the 13th century). In accordance with a passage in the Midrash, where
the verse "Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek" is
explained to mean "even from wood and stones." A custom developed of
writing the name of Haman, the offspring of Amalek, on two smooth
stones, and knocking them together until the name was blotted out.
Some wrote the name of Haman on the soles of their shoes, and at the
mention of the name stamped with their feet as a sign of contempt.
Another method was to use a noisy ratchet, called a ra'ashan (from the
Hebrew ra-ash, meaning "noise") and in
Yiddish a grager. Some of the
rabbis protested against these uproarious excesses, considering them a
disturbance of public worship, but the custom of using a ratchet in
the synagogue on
Purim is now universal, with the exception of Spanish
and Portuguese Jews, who consider them a breach of decorum.[citation
Food gifts and charity
Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, snacks and other foodstuffs given as
mishloach manot on
Book of Esther
Book of Esther prescribes "the sending of portions one man to
another, and gifts to the poor". According to halakha, each adult
must give two different foods to one person, and two charitable
donations to two poor people. The food parcels are called
mishloach manot ("sending of portions"), and in some circles the
custom has evolved into a major gift-giving event.
To fulfill the mitzvah of giving charity to two poor people, one can
give either food or money equivalent to the amount of food that is
eaten at a regular meal. It is better to spend more on charity than on
the giving of mishloach manot. In the synagogue, regular
collections of charity are made on the festival and the money is
distributed among the needy. No distinction is made among the poor;
anyone who is willing to accept charity is allowed to participate. It
is obligatory for the poorest Jew, even one who is himself dependent
on charity, to give to other poor people.
Purim meal (se'udah) and festive drinking
Main article: Seudat mitzvah § Seudat Purim
Purim day, a festive meal called the Se`udat
Purim is held. Fasting
for non-medical reasons is prohibited on Purim.
There is a longstanding custom of drinking wine at the feast. The
custom stems from a statement in the
Talmud attributed to a rabbi
named Rava that says one should drink on
Purim until he can "no longer
distinguish between arur Haman ('Cursed is Haman') and baruch
Mordechai ('Blessed is Mordecai')." The drinking of wine features
prominently in keeping with the jovial nature of the feast, but also
helps simulate the experience of spiritual blindness, wherein one
cannot distinguish between good (Mordechai) and evil (Haman). This is
based on the fact that the salvation of the
Jews occurred through
wine. Alcoholic consumption was later codified by the early
authorities, and while some advocated total intoxication, others,
consistent with the opinion of many early and later rabbis, taught
that one should only drink a little more than usual and then fall
asleep, whereupon one will certainly not be able to tell the
difference between arur Haman ("cursed be Haman") and baruch Mordecai
("blessed be Mordechai"). Other authorities, including the Magen
Avraham, have written that one should drink until one is unable to
calculate the gematria (numerical values) of both phrases.
Main article: Fast of Esther
The Fast of Esther, observed before Purim, on the 13th of Adar, is an
original part of the
Purim celebration, referred to in Esther
9:31–32. The first who mentions the Fast of
Gaon (Acha of Shabcha) (8th century CE) in She'iltot 4; the reason
there given for its institution is based on an interpretation of
Esther 9:31 and
Talmud Megillah 2a: "The 13th was the
time of gathering", which gathering is explained to have had also the
purpose of public prayer and fasting. Some, however, used to fast
three days in commemoration of the fasting of Esther; but as fasting
was prohibited during the month of Nisan, the first and second Mondays
and the Thursday following
Purim were chosen. The fast of the 13th is
still commonly observed; but when that date falls on Sabbath, the fast
is pushed forward to the preceding Thursday, Friday being needed to
prepare for Sabbath and the following
It is common to greet one another on
Purim in Hebrew Chag Purim
Purim (in Yiddish) or "
Purim Allegre" (in Ladino).
The Hebrew greeting loosely translates to "Happy
Purim Holiday" and
Yiddish and Ladino translate to "Happy Purim".
The custom of masquerading in costume and the wearing of masks
probably originated among the Italian
Jews at the end of the 15th
century. The concept was possibly influenced by the Roman carnival
and spread across Europe. The practice was only introduced into Middle
Eastern countries much later during the 19th century. The first among
Jewish codifiers to mention the custom was Mahari Minz (d. 1508 at
Venice). While most authorities are concerned about the possible
infringement of biblical law were men to don women's apparel, others
permit all forms of masquerade, as it is viewed as a form of
merry-making. Some non-orthodox rabbis went as far to allow the
wearing of rabbinically-forbidden shatnez.
Other reasons given for the custom: It is a way of emulating God who
"disguised" his presence behind the natural events described in the
Purim story, and has remained concealed (yet ever-present) in Jewish
history since the times of the destruction of the first Temple. Since
charity is a central feature of the day, when givers and/or recipients
disguise themselves this allows greater anonymity thus preserving the
dignity of the recipient. Another reason for masquerading is that it
alludes to the hidden aspect of the miracle of Purim, which was
"disguised" by natural events but really was the work of the
Burning of Haman's effigy
As early as the fifth century, there was a custom to burn an effigy of
Haman on Purim. The spectacle aroused the wrath of the early
Christians who interpreted the mocking and "execution" of the Haman
effigy as a disguised attempt to re-enact the death of Jesus and
ridicule the Christian faith. Prohibitions were issued against such
displays under the reign of
Flavius Augustus Honorius
Flavius Augustus Honorius (395–423) and
Theodosius II (408–450). The custom was popular during the
Geonic period (ninth and tenth centuries), and a 14th-century
scholar described how people would ride through the streets of
Provence holding fir branches and blowing trumpets around a puppet of
Haman which was hanged and later burnt. The practice continued
into the 20th century, with children treating Haman as a sort of "Guy
Fawkes." In the early 1950s, the custom was still observed in Iran
and some remote communities in Kurdistan where young Muslims would
sometimes join in.
Purim spiel was historically a comic dramatization that attempted to
convey the saga of the
Purim story. By the 18th century, in some parts
of Eastern Europe, the
Purim plays had evolved into broad-ranging
satires with music and dance for which the story of
Esther was little
more than a pretext. Indeed, by the mid-19th century, some were even
based on other biblical stories. Today,
Purim spiels can revolve
around anything relating to
Judaism that will bring cheer and
comic relief to an audience celebrating the day.
Purim spiel (play) in Dresden, Germany
The most impressive part of the holiday is the carnival.
Israel is perhaps one of the most spectacular holidays in the world.
Thousands of people take to the streets, showing off their costumes
that they made especially for the holiday. Costumes at
Purim are a
special industry in Israel, and during this period the prices go up,
which means Israelis try to buy their costumes in advance.
Songs associated with
Purim are based on sources that are Talmudic,
liturgical and cultural. Traditional
Purim songs include Mishenichnas
Adar marbim be-simcha ("When [the Hebrew month of]
Adar enters, we
have a lot of joy"—
Mishnah Taanith 4:1) and LaYehudim haitah orah
ve-simchah ve-sasson ve-yakar ("The
Jews had light and gladness, joy
Esther 8:16). The Shoshanat Yaakov prayer is sung at
the conclusion of the Megillah reading. A number of children's songs
(with non-liturgical sources) also exist: Once There Was a Wicked
Wicked Man, Ani Purim, Chag Purim, Chag Purim, Chag Gadol
Hu LaYehudim, Mishenichnas Adar, Shoshanas Yaakov, Al HaNisim,
VeNahafoch Hu, LaYehudim Hayesa Orah, U Mordechai Yatza, Kacha
Yay'aseh, Chayav Inish, Utzu Eitzah.
Homemade prune hamantaschen
On Purim, Ashkenazi
Jews eat triangular pastries called hamantaschen
("Haman's pockets") or oznei Haman ("Haman's ears"). A sweet pastry
dough is rolled out, cut into circles, and traditionally filled with a
poppy seed filling; this is then wrapped up into a triangular shape
with the filling either hidden or showing. More recently, prunes,
dates, apricots, apples, and chocolate fillings have been introduced.
Among Sephardi Jews, a fried pastry called fazuelos is eaten, as well
as a range of baked or fried pastries called Orejas de Haman (Haman's
Ears) or Hojuelas de Haman. These pastries are also known as Oznei
Seeds and nuts are customarily eaten on Purim, as the
Esther ate only these foodstuffs in the palace of
Ahasuerus, since she had no access to kosher food. 
Meat-filled kreplach in a clear soup
Kreplach, a kind of dumpling filled with cooked meat, chicken or liver
and served in soup, are traditionally served by Ashkenazi
Purim. "Hiding" the meat inside the dumpling serves as another
reminder of the story of
Esther which is told in the only book of
Hebrew Scriptures besides The Song of Songs that does not contain a
single reference to God, who seems to hide behind the scenes.
Arany galuska, a dessert consisting of fried dough balls and vanilla
custard, is traditional for
Jews from Hungary and Romania, as well as
In the Middle Ages, European
Jews would eat nilish, a type of blintz
Special breads are baked among various communities. In Moroccan Jewish
Purim bread called ojos de Haman ("eyes of Haman") is
sometimes baked in the shape of Haman's head, and the eyes, made of
eggs, are plucked out to demonstrate the destruction of Haman.
Among Polish Jews, koilitch, a raisin
Purim challah that is baked in a
long twisted ring and topped with small colorful candies, is meant to
evoke the colorful nature of the holiday.
Jews and Mountain
Jews consider themselves descendants of
Esther. On Purim, Iranian
Jews visit the tombs of
Esther and Mordechai
in Hamadan. Some women pray there in the belief that
Esther can work
Purim falls on
Adar 15 and is the day on which
Jerusalem celebrate Purim. The day is also universally observed by
Tachanun prayer and having a more elaborate meal than on
Purim is celebrated on
Adar 14 because the
Jews in unwalled cities
fought their enemies on
Adar 13 and rested the following day. However,
in Shushan, the capital city of the Persian Empire, the
involved in defeating their enemies on
Adar 13–14 and rested on the
Esther 9:20–22). In commemoration of this, it was decided that
while the victory would be celebrated universally on
Adar 14, for Jews
living in Shushan, the holiday would be held on
Adar 15. Later, in
deference to Jerusalem, the Sages determined that
Purim would be
Adar 15 in all cities which had been enclosed by a wall
at the time of Joshua's conquest of the Land of Israel. This criterion
allowed the city of
Jerusalem to retain its importance for Jews, and
Shushan was not walled at the time of Joshua, it was made an
exception since the miracle occurred there.
Today, there is debate as to whether outlying neighborhoods of
Jerusalem are obliged to observe
Purim on the 14th or 15th of
Adar. Further doubts have arisen as to whether other cities were
sufficiently walled in Joshua's era. It is therefore customary in
certain towns including Hebron, Safed, Tiberias, Acre, Ashdod,
Ashkelon, Beersheva, Beit She'an, Beit Shemesh, Gaza, Gush Halav,
Haifa, Jaffa, Lod,
Shechem to celebrate
Purim on the 14th
and hold an additional megillah reading on the 15th with no
blessings. In the diaspora,
Jews in Baghdad, Damascus, Prague,
and elsewhere celebrate
Purim on the 14th and hold an additional
megillah reading on the 15th with no blessings. Since today we are not
sure where the walled cities from Joshua's time are, the only city
that currently celebrates only
Purim is Jerusalem; however,
Rabbi Yoel Elizur has written that residents of Bet El and Mevo Choron
should observe only the 15th, like Jerusalem.
Outside of Jerusalem, Hasidic
Jews don their holiday clothing on
Shushan Purim, and may attend a tish, and even give mishloach manot,
however this is not a religious obligation, but merely a
Purim Meshulash 
Purim Meshulash, or the three-fold Purim, is a somewhat rare calendric
occurrence that affects how
Purim is observed in
Jerusalem (and, in
theory at least, in other cities that were surrounded by a wall in
ancient times). When
Adar 15) falls on Sabbath, the
holiday is celebrated over a period of three days. The megilla
reading and distribution of charity takes place on the Friday (Adar
14), which day is called
Purim dePrazos. The Al ha-Nissim prayer is
only recited on Sabbath (
Adar 15), which is
Purim itself. The Torah
Purim is read for maftir, while the haftarah is the same
as read the previous Shabbat, Parshat Zachor. On Sunday (
Purim Meshullash, mishloach manot are sent and the festive
Purim meal is held. The minimum interval between occurrences of
Purim Meshulash is three years (1974 to 1977; 2005 to 2008; will occur
again 2045 to 2048). The maximum interval is 20 years (1954 to 1974;
will occur again 2025 to 2045). Other possible intervals are four
years (1977 to 1981; 2001 to 2005; will occur again 2021 to 2025);
seven years (1994 to 2001; will occur again 2123 to 2130); 13 years
(1981 to 1994; 2008 to 2021; will occur again 2130 to 2143); and 17
years (1930 to 1947; will occur again 2275 to 2292).
During leap years on the Hebrew calendar,
Purim is celebrated in the
second month of Adar. (The Karaites, however, celebrate it in the
first month of Adar.) The 14th of the first
Adar is then called Purim
Katan ("Little Purim" in Hebrew) and the 15th is
for which there no set observances but have a minor holiday aspect to
it. The distinctions between the first and the second
Purim in leap
years are mentioned in the Mishnah. Certain prayers like Tachanun,
Keil Erech Apayim (when 15
Adar I is a Monday or Thursday) and
Lam'nazteach (Psalm 20) are omitted during the service. When 15th Adar
I is on Shabbat, "Av Harachamim" is omitted. When either 13th or 15th
Adar I falls on Shabbat, "Tzidkas'cha" is omitted at Mincha. Fasting
Communal and familial Purims
Main article: Second Purim
Historically, many Jewish communities around the world established
local "Purims" to commemorate their deliverance from catastrophe or an
antisemitic ruler or edict. One of the best known is
traditionally celebrated in
Frankfurt one week after the regular
Purim Vinz commemorates the Fettmilch uprising (1616–1620),
in which one
Vincenz Fettmilch attempted to exterminate the Jewish
community. According to some sources, the influential
Sofer (the Chasam Sofer), who was born in Frankfurt, celebrated Purim
Vintz every year, even when he served as a rabbi in Pressburg.
Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller (1579–1654) of Kraków, Poland, asked
that his family henceforth celebrate a private Purim, marking the end
of his many troubles, including having faced trumped-up charges.
Purim is preceded by a fast day, the rabbi also directed his
descendants to have a (private) fast day, the 5th day of Tamuz,
marking one of his imprisonments (1629), this one lasting for 40
The Jewish community of
Hebron has celebrated two historic Purims,
both from the Ottoman period. One is called Window Purim, or Purim
Taka, in which the community was saved when a bag of money
mysteriously appeared in a window, enabling them to pay off an
extortion fee to the Ottoman Pasha. Many record the date being the
14th of the month, which corresponds the date of
Purim on 14
Adar. The other was called The
Purim of Ibrahim Pasha, in
which the community was saved during a battle.
Purim celebrations in
Jewish history have occurred in
Yemen, Italy, Vilna and other locations.
In recent history
Adolf Hitler banned and forbade the observance of Purim. In a speech
made on November 10, 1938 (the day after Kristallnacht), Julius
Streicher surmised that just as "the Jew butchered 75,000 Persians" in
one night, the same fate would have befallen the German people had the
Jews succeeded in inciting a war against Germany; the "
Jews would have
instituted a new
Purim festival in Germany".
Nazi attacks against
Jews were often coordinated with Jewish
Purim 1942, ten
Jews were hanged in
Zduńska Wola to
"avenge" the hanging of Haman's ten sons. In a similar incident in
1943, the Nazis shot ten
Jews from the Piotrków ghetto. On Purim
eve that same year, over 100 Jewish doctors and their families were
shot by the Nazis in Częstochowa. The following day, Jewish doctors
were taken from
Radom and shot nearby in Szydłowiec.
In an apparent connection made by Hitler between his Nazi regime and
the role of Haman, Hitler stated in a speech made on January 30, 1944,
that if the Nazis were defeated, the
Jews could celebrate "a second
Julius Streicher was heard to sarcastically remark
"Purimfest 1946" as he ascended the scaffold after Nuremberg.
Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel, there is a code in the Book
Esther which lies in the names of Haman's 10 sons. Three of the
Hebrew letters – a tav, a shin and a zayin – are written smaller
than the rest, while a vav is written larger. The outsized vav –
which represents the number six – corresponds to the sixth
millennium of the world since creation, which, according to Jewish
tradition, is the period between 1240–2240 CE. As for the tav, shin
and zayin, their numerical values add up to 707. Put together, these
letters refer to the Jewish year 5707, which corresponds to the
secular 1946–1947. In his research, Neugroschel noticed that ten
Nazi defendants in the
Nuremberg Trials were executed by hanging on
October 16, 1946, which was the date of the final judgement day of
Judaism, Hoshana Rabbah. Additionally, Hermann Göring, an eleventh
Nazi official sentenced to death, committed suicide, parallel to
Haman's daughter in
Talmud Megillah 16a.
There is a tale in the Hasidic
Chabad movement that supposedly Joseph
Stalin died as a result of some metaphysical intervention of the
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, during the
recitation of a discourse at a public
Purim Farbrengen. Stalin was
suddenly paralyzed on 1 March 1953, which corresponds to
and died 4 days later. Due to Stalin's death, nationwide pogroms
Jews throughout the Soviet Union were averted, as Stalin's
infamous doctors' plot was halted.
The Disengoff Center Suicide Bombing took place on the eve of Purim
killing 13 on March 4, 1996.
Cave of the Patriarchs massacre
Cave of the Patriarchs massacre took place during
In the media
The 1960 20th Century-Fox film
Esther and the King stars Joan Collins
Esther and Richard Egan as Ahasuerus. It was filmed in Italy by
director Raoul Walsh. The 2006 movie One Night with the King
chronicles the life of the young Jewish girl, Hadassah, who goes on to
become the Biblical Esther, the Queen of Persia, and saves the Jewish
nation from annihilation at the hands of its arch enemy while winning
the heart of the fiercely handsome King Xerxes.
The 2006 comedy film For Your Consideration employs a
film-within-a-film device in which the fictitious film being produced
is titled Home for Purim, and is about a Southern Jewish family's
Purim celebration. However, once the film receives Oscar buzz, studio
executives feel it is "too Jewish" and force the film to be renamed
Home for Thanksgiving.
Public holidays in Israel
Jewish holidays 2000–2050
Extensions of festivals similar to
Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of
Passover and Sukkot.
Isru chag refers to the day after each of the Three Pilgrimage
Mimouna, a traditional North African Jewish celebration held the day
Pesach Sheni, is exactly one month after 14 Nisan.
Yom Kippur Katan is a practice observed by some
Jews on the day
Rosh Chodesh or New-Moon Day.
Yom tov sheni shel galuyot refers to the observance of an extra day of
Jewish holidays outside of the land of Israel.
History of the
Jews in Iran
History of the
Jews in Afghanistan
Esther 9:24, 27.
^ Jewish (and not commonly misunderstood Xerxes I, "Khshayarsha" in
Old Persian) Encyclopedia (1906). AHASUERUS. JewishEncyclopedia.com.
Archived from the original on 2014-07-03.
^ Encyclopaedia Perthensis (1816). Universal Dictionary of the Arts,
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^ Law, George R. (2010). Identification of Darius the Mede. USA: Ready
Scribe Press. pp. 94–96. Archived from the original on
^ First, Mitchell (2015).
Esther Unmasked: Solving Eleven Mysteries of
the Jewish Holidays and Liturgy (Kodesh Press), p. 163.
^ Elozor Barclay and Yitzchok Jaeger. "Gifts to the Poor". Aish.com.
Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 12 March
Purim 2012 Guide". Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. Archived from the
original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayyim 685:1
Esther chapters 1 and 2
Esther chapters 3–5
^ Mindel, Nissan. The Complete Story of
Purim Archived 2018-01-22 at
the Wayback Machine..
Esther chapters 9–16
Esther chapters 6–9
Esther chapters 9–10
^ Albert De Jong, Traditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and
Latin Literature, chap. 3, Brill, 1997. Citing
Berossus in his
Babyloniaca (in a section preserved in Clement of Alexandria's
^ a b William Whiston, The Works of Flavius Josephus, the Learned and
Authentic Jewish Historian, Milner and Sowerby, 1864, online edition
Harvard University 2004. Cited in
Contra Apionem which quotes a work
referred to as Peri Ioudaion (On the Jews), which is credited to
Hecataeus of Abdera (late fourth century BCE).
^ Jacob Hoschander, The
Book of Esther
Book of Esther in the Light of History, Oxford
University Press, 1923
^ David Flusser,
Josephus Goridines (The Josippon) (Vols. 1–2), The
Bialik Institute, 1978
^ Ehsan Yar-Shater, The History of al-Tabari : An Annotated
Translation, SUNY Press, 1989
^ a b Moshe Perlmann trans., The Ancient Kingdoms, SUNY Press, 1985
^ a b Said Amir Arjomand, Artaxerxes, Ardasir and Bahman, The Journal
of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 118, 1998
^ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition article Abd al-Hasan Ali
ibn al-Husayn Masudi, Columbia University Press, 2007
^ Lewis Bayles Paton, Esther: Critical Exegetical Commentary,
Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000
^ Abd al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn Masudi, Murūj al-dhahab (Meadows of
Gold), ed. and French transl. by F. Barbier de Meynard and Pavet du
Courteille, Paris, 1861
^ Richard James Horatio Gottheil ed., Persian Literature, Volume 1,
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Colonial Press, 1900
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Morteza Thaghebfar, Tehran, 2012, p. 19
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^ NIV Study Bible, Introductions to the Books of the Bible, Esther,
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Bava Basra 15a.
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Esther Rabbah, 1997
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Talmud Megillah 4a
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^ Deuteronomy 25:19
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Rabbi Elozor and Jaeger,
Rabbi Yitzchok (2001).
Guidelines: Over two hundred and fifty of the most commonly asked
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Orach Chaim 696:8.
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^ A children's song called "Light, Gladness, Joy, Honor," based on the
Esther 8:16 quote, is sung in some Reform Jewish
communities, but since it is based on a liturgical quote, it wouldn't
be in the list of songs above.
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values in: access-date= (help)
^ For Your Consideration at AllMovie
Purim in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Purim.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Aruch HaShulchan: The laws of the
Purim Feast and of giving gifts to
one's friend on Purim: Mishloach manot
Yeshiva Laws, articles and Q&A on Purim
Union for Reform
Synagogue of Conservative
"Purim". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
Book of Esther
Esther (in rabbinic literature)
Haman (in rabbinic literature)
Bigthan and Teresh
Fast of Esther
Jewish and Israeli holidays and observances
Jewish holidays and
High Holy Days
Fast of Gedalia
Ten Days of Repentance
Fast of the Firstborn
Yom tov sheni shel galuyot
Tenth of Tevet
Fast of Esther
Counting of the Omer
17th of Tammuz
The Three Weeks
The Nine Days
Rosh Hashanah LaBehema
Holidays / memorial days
of the State of Israel
Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day)
Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day)
Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
Yom Yerushalayim (
Ethnic minority holidays
Hebrew calendar months
Jewish and Israeli holidays 2000–2050