Purim, falling on the 14th day of the month of Adar, is a celebration of the Jews' overcoming their intended slaughter at the hands of the Persian Empire, as told in the biblical Book of Esther.
Jews celebrate Purim by chanting the Book of Esther aloud in Hebrew, and traditionally making noise to obscure the name of the story's villain, Haman. Often, festivities include dressing in costumes and having elaborate parties, with the added Talmudic tradition of drinking “ad delo yada,” until one cannot distinguish between the phrases, “Blessed is Mordechai” (one of the stories' Jewish heroes, the uncle of Esther) and “Cursed is Haman.”
There are five mitzvot (commandments) associated with Purim:
- Hearing the Book of Esther (usually referred to as “the megillah,” meaning “scroll”) read aloud from a kosher scroll in the evening and the morning
- Sending mishloah manot (gift baskets to friends and neighbors);
- Giving matanot la-evyonim / charity to the poor;
- Having a festive meal (a Purim se'udah) on the day of Purim;
- Fasting on the day before Purim(Ta’anit Ester). This is a daytime-only fast, one of the four minor fast days of the Jewish calendar.
For more detailed information about Purim, click here.
To learn a lighthearted passage from the Talmud about Purim, click here.