Jewish people around the world, including those in London Town celebrated Purim yesterday. What is Purim and why is it celebrated? Knowledge is power, people. So, let’s get on with the getting on.
Purim Sameah! In case you aren’t familiar with Hebrew, that means ‘Happy Purim!’. What’s Purim, you ask? It’s one of the most exciting celebrations in the Jewish calendar. The holiday takes place through the evening of 23 March to the sunset of 24 March-the actual date of Purim changes every year. In Judaism, the night always precedes the day, so every holiday begins the night before and ends at nightfall the next day. Purim commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther. It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim as well as perform plays and parodies and even hold beauty contests. Americans sometimes refer to Purim as the Jewish Mardi Gras. Am not sure how to feel about that.
The main commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the Book of Esther. The Book of Esther is known as the Megillah (which means scroll). Actually, there are FIVE books of Jewish scripture that can be called megillahs (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Lamentations). The Book of Esther is the one people usually mean when they speak of Megillah.
At Purim, when The Book of Esther is read at synagogue it is usually quite a rowdy celebration. The synagogue will normally be crowded with men, women and children-some even in costume or masks. The Purim story features a villain called Haman, and whenever the name of Haman is called everyone in the synagogue boos and hisses and stamps their feed and uses noisemakers (called graggers) and cymbals whenever the name of Haman is mentioned during the service. The purpose/reason of this custom is to blot out the name of Haman. Originally, when Haman’s name was read, the congregation would shout, ‘Cursed be Haman’ or ‘May the name of the wicked rot’ but these days, ANY noise will do.
The Story of Purim
The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther. Esther, a Jewish girl who later becomes Queen to King Xerxes of Persia, and through her bravery, she is able to thwart an attempt to slaughter all the Jews living in Persia at that time. Purim commemorates Esther’s courage in saving the Jewish people living in Persia 2000 years ago from extermination. That is it in a nutshell, if you want to more you should Google it. Google is your friend.
Pictured below are some images of Orthodox Jews in London celebrating Purim.