Happy Purim, 2015! Today is the day the Jews celebrate the victory of God through Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, over the dastardly plan of Haman to exterminate all the Jews in Persia.
“Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adaras the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur (that is, the lot ) for their ruin and destruction. But when the plot came to the king’s attention, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur. ) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed.”
(Esther 9:20–27 NIV)
So to this day Purim is celebrated. And it’s called Purim because purim means “lots” or “dice”, and Haman used lots to pick the day on which the Jews would be destroyed.
On Purim the entire book of Esther is read in the synagogue, and whenever Haman’s name, which occurs 54 times, is spoken, everyone stamps their feet, whistles, boos or spins a noisy ratchet called a gragger, so that his name can’t be heard. This is because Deuteronomy 25:19 says, “When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” Haman was a descendant of Amalek.
After the reading, everyone in the synagogue recites this blessing:
“Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, 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 O Lord, Who exacts vengeance for His people Israel from all their foes, the God Who brings salvation.”
Besides reading the Book of Esther people also dress in costumes and act out the Esther story and share sweets with their friends and neighbors, particularly a delicious pastry called hamentaschen.