Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Purim Customs

Shalom Mishpachach,

We will be celebrating Purim on Friday, March 25th, at 8 PM. Decorum is out, inanity is in. During the service, we tell the story of Esther. At the Oneg afterwards, we will be serving the Hamantashan that Mr. Bill showed us how to make at Jim & Amy's.

(We're having the teens make signs that they will be holding up telling us when to Boo, Cheer, and Ahhh! Please make sure you encourage them; they are a great group with a lot of energy and can get pretty wild!)

The following is Jewish traditions for Purim. We will not be serving wine.

Purim Customs

The service for Purim is most unusual. Dressing in silly costumes is encouraged. At no time of the Jewish year is the synagogue as "wild" as during the Megillah reading.

Interrupting the reading with noise-making devices at the mention of Haman's name is encouraged. When Haman's name is read in the Megillah, the congregation erupts in a deafening chorus of groggers, boos, hisses, and stamping of the feet in order to blot out his evil name.

The grogger (Yiddish for rattle), is more widely used than the custom of feet stamping. (The Hebrew word for this noisemaker is ra'ashan, from the word ra'ash, meaning noise.) The custom of the Purim grogger, was obviously introduced to amuse the children, and so keep up their interest in the reading, as children (over 6) are also required to hear the Megillah.

So that Haman's ten sons should not feel left out, the congregation again interrupts the Megillah reading with resounding noise, when the ten names are read.

When then name “Mordecai” (the Benjamite) is read, the audience cheers enthusiastically. And when they read the name “Esther”, the crowd responds with a reverent, whispered “Ahhhhhhh”.

The scroll is unrolled completely and the Megillah is so folded as to give it the form of a letter or dispatch. The reading of the Megillah is considered by our sages of such importance that even women are obligated to hear it, especially as they played an important part in the miraculous delivery. Women must also perform the other Purim mitzvot, - sending food to friends, giving gifts to the poor, and eating the Purim meal. As mentioned above, children (over 6) are also required to hear the Megillah. A whole tractate of the Talmud, called Megillah, (what else?) is devoted to the laws of Purim.


There is an old joke about summing up a Jewish Holiday: "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat!"

Like all Jewish Holidays, (except Yom Kippur of course), it is a mitzvah to have a great big meal on Purim, including meat and wine. The Purim feast must be held during the day, usually after Mincha (Afternoon prayers).

If the meal extends into the evening, as it usually does, Al Hanisim, a special prayer recounting the miracle of the day, is still added to the Birchat Hamazon, the "Grace after meals."

This Purim meal is different, in that not only do we feast and feast, we over feast.

Because the miracle of Purim came thru wine, - Vashti's downfall and Haman's downfall came as a result of a wine feast, the Rabbis of the Talmud, usually a quite sober group, said:
"On Purim, one should drink - Ahd D'lo Yoda Bain Arur Haman L'Boruch Mordechai" - "Until he can no longer tell the difference between 'Cursed be Haman' and 'Blessed be Mordechai.' " (Tractate Megilah 7b).

What they were trying to suggest is a high level of inane behavior on Purim. As long as it is not abusive or destructive, Purim is a time when almost anything is permitted.

A person who can't or won't drink may fulfill the "Ahd D'lo Yoda " requirement by sleeping, because one who sleeps also doesn't know the difference between a curse and a blessing.

Baruch BaShem Yeshua,

Purim Feast

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