A long time ago in a galaxy not too far away, the Persians would have gotten away if it weren’t for princess Esther…
The Germans weren’t the first to try and exterminate the Jews. A long time ago in a galaxy not too far away, the Persians would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those pesky kids princess Esther with the help of her Obi Wan of a cousin Mordechai who helped raise and guide her, especially in the trying times we survived and celebrate as Purim.
So what happened?
2,300 years ago in Persia, the King Achashverosh throws a large party yada yada yada kills his queen. Ok, what happened was the king got very drunk and ordered his queen to show off her beauty to the realm. One problem, she was suddenly struck with pimples! (well, tzaraat, which more resembles leprosy). So, she refuses. So, she is executed.
But the kingdom must have a queen for the now lonely King! So, the most beautiful woman in all the realm is chosen, Esther—a Jew. A Jew? Well, Mordechai wisely told her to keep that to herself, because, well, surprise surprise, being Jewish wasn’t a plus, even though Mordechai the Jew saved the king from an attempted assassination.
Enter Haman (BOO! Yeah, we make lots of noise to curse his name. It’s our thing…) who hates Jews (surprised?), especially after Mordechai doesn’t bow at his presence. So, Haman wants to sign an official ordinance to kill all Jews on the day selected by a lottery, or “purim” in Persian.
In a turn of events, after revealing that she is a Jew, Esther explains to the King that Haman is trying to kill her people. Kill the people of the Queen? Hang him! So they did—Haman was hanged, the Jews were saved, and Mordechai even became prime minister.
So we celebrate by reading the Megillat Esther a.k.a. the Scroll of Esther, which literally means “revealing the hidden”… and by dressing up in costumes. There’s a few explanations as to why.
While the Megillah is read, we make noise at the name of Haman, an ancestor of the Amalek who attacked the Israelites on their 40 year journey out of Egypt.
For example, the story surrounds a lot of hidden events and secrecy, and so we “hide” our identity. Why in funny outfits? Why not? Well, no, there’s a few reasons, like emphasizing the celebration that there could have just as swiftly been a mass Jewish massacre. Also, there’s the idea that we dress up as the goyim did in masquerades and Greek celebrations (to today around the pagan holiday of Halloween) as if it were opposite day, which is why men dressing up like women is actually kosher this evening.
We also read the Megillah, revealing the story of Purim—in fact, that’s a must—reminding us that Hashem’s Hand may seem hidden, and only appear at the very end, but that Hashem is always with us and will always help.
While the Megillah is read, we make noise at the name of Haman, an ancestor of the Amalek who attacked the Israelites on their 40 year journey out of Egypt. When commanded by Hashem to decimate every last Amalek, even the women and children, the Jews showed mercy. We have paid for that ever since, as recently as 2300 years ago if not even today, as some call the Palestinians to be descendents of the Amalek.
Purim also emphasizes community with mishlach manot, a gift basket full of goodies ranging from grape juice or wine to oznei haman (or hamantashan) that refers to either Haman’s hat or the ears of our enemies… either way they’re triangle shaped cookies filled with jelly, poppy seeds, chocolate, etc…
Ideally, you should send two of them. Even more ideally is to do so anonymously, as that is the highest form of charity. However, who would look a gift hamantash in the mouth?…I think that’s how it goes.