Frequently Asked Question

What is Purim?

Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the reversal of fortune of the Jews in Persia, believed to be between 539-330 BCE, who went from being sentenced to death to witnessing the death of their sentencer, Haman.

How do we celebrate it?

Purim takes place on the 14th of Adar, though in Jerusalem the holiday is observed on the 15th. This typically falls out in February or March. The holiday is associated with several mitzvot, or commandments, including reading the Megillah -- the book of Esther -- eating a feast, or Purim Seudah, and delivering gifts to the poor. The holiday is preceded by a minor fast day called the Fast of Esther, which commemorates the three days of fasting Esther undertook before appealing to King Achashverosh on behalf of the Jewish people.

What does it mean?

Purim is the story of the survival of Jews in a Diaspora community at a moment when they seemed doomed. Some struggle with the end of the book of esther, which describes an uprising after Haman was hanged in which tens of thousands of Persians were killed. While God is not explicitly mentioned in the Book of Esther, religious Jews and Rabbinic commentaries interpret the story as as an example of the behind-the-scenes role of divine intervention in Jewish survival.

What is the history behind Purim?

The history of Purim, relayed in the Book of Esther, tells the story of Esther who became queen with the help of her guardian and relative, Mordechai, who helped saved King Achashverosh by reporting a plot to kill him. Haman, jealous of Mordechai, decided with the encouragement of his wife to kill the Jews and drew lots -- or in Hebrew, Purim -- to choose a date on which to kill them. Esther used her influence to petition on behalf of the Jews and Haman and his sons were sentenced to death for his plot.

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