Purim is the most festive holiday of the Jewish calendar. It is an occasion for “serious partying,” a day of authorized abandon. Purim marks the celebration of an ancient victory—when Queen Esther, an assimilated Jewish woman, found the courage to risk her life to save the Jewish people from an evil advisor who plotted to destroy the Jews of Shushan. Read The Purim Story.
Purim is undoubtedly the most high-spirited of Jewish holidays and probably the easiest to celebrate. Four mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) have become the essence of Purim. (A mitzvah is good deed that Jews do, or “a Jewish thing to do.”)
THE READING OF THE MEGILLAH
On Purim it is a mitzvah to hear the Megillah, the Book of Esther, read aloud. Purim’s festivities center around this reading. The community gathers in costume, with graggers/ra’ashanim (Purim noisemakers) in hand, prepared to hear the story. Carnivals, plays,special dinners and parties all follow from this moment. The Megillah reading of Purim can be a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to a synagogue. Even without understanding the context, children can learn to associate Judaism with joy and celebration. They feel bonded to a people and community who know how to laugh and love their tradition enough to play with it and enjoy it. The actual story of the Megillah is one of straightforward idealism. Its message for us and our children is that every Jew can be a hero and that individuals can make a difference. Attending a Megillah reading and discussing the story of Esther with your children can help to foster a sense of self-worth and provide a role model for every would-be hero.
GIVING SHALAH MANOT, GIFTS OF FOOD
Giving Shalah Manot reminds us that being a Jew means being part of the community and sharing celebrations with friends. Giving Shalah Manot is a simple mitzvah. It is just a matter of giving a gift of two or more kinds of food to the small circle of people important in your family’s life. Shalah Manot may typically include hamantashen (three-cornered cookies named after Haman: recipe), fruit, and candy on a decorated paper plate.
GIVING MANOT LA-EVYONIM, GIFTS TO THE POOR
In the Jewish tradition, every act of celebration, every moment of significance, and every formal gathering includes an opportunity for giving tzedakah. Tzedakah, coming from a Hebrew word meaning justice, is the obligation to help those who are in need by sharing part of the wealth we have been fortunate enough to accumulate.
CELEBRATE AND BE HAPPY
On Purim, it is a mitzvah to celebrate and be happy. Parties, special meals, hamantashen (recipe), costumes, carnivals, plays and sounding graggers are all part of the Purim festival. It is even a mitzvah to get drunk—or at least drunk with gladness.