Purim Begins the evening of
Sat, Mar 23 – Sun, Mar 24, 2024

What is Purim? 

The holiday of Purim is celebrated in the month of Adar every year. It commemorates the foiled plan of Haman to kill every Jew in the Persian empire in one day. He drew lots to determine the best day for his massacre and picked the 14th of Adar. Instead of being a day of death and mourning, Haman was hanged, and the 14th of Adar became a day of joyous celebration with various traditions to commemorate the miracle that happened on that day.

The history of Purim:

The story of Purim took place in 539-330 BCE, during the Persian Empire’s rule over most of the known world. The story begins when King Achashveirosh gets drunk at a party and orders his servants to behead his wife, Vashti. When he wakes up sober the next day, he regrets what he did and starts a search for a new wife. Esther, a young orphaned Jewish girl, is chosen as the new Queen. While she is in the palace, Achashveirosh’s most trusted advisor, Haman, who is a sinister antisemite, influences the King to agree to rid the entire empire of Jews. Hamas draws lots, and it is determined that the 14th of Adar would be the day when every non-Jew would kill every Jewish man, woman, and child in the entire Persian Empire.

Under the guidance of her guardian, Mordechai, Esther approaches the King and reveals that she is a Jew. Although it was a dangerous mission, she knew it was the only chance to save the entire Jewish nation. The King is furious that Haman planned to kill his wife’s nation and orders him to be hung on the 14th of Adar while Mordechai was promoted to Prime Minister. The day that was supposed to be full of bloodshed, mourning, and death was transformed into a day of celebration of the miracle on this day. We celebrate that the tables were suddenly turned with the death of evil and the emergence of truth and light as the Jewish people were saved.

How is Purim celebrated?

Purim today is celebrated with joyous singing, drinking, and merriment. People dress up or wear masks to signify the story of Esther, who hid her identity as a Jew from her husband. Traditionally, people bake hamantashen, a triangle-shaped cookie with jelly in the center, in imitation of Haman’s supposedly triangular hat. Many people also perform what’s called a Purim spiel- a play- that is lighthearted and humorous. There is also a tradition to drink a lot of wine and get drunk until ‘one can not identify that Haman was evil and Mordechai was good.’

What are the commandments of the day?

There are four mitzvos, commandments, that are required of every person on this day:

  1. Megillah- every man and woman must hear the reading of the megillah of Esther, the story of the miracle of Purim, twice- on the night and the day. Every time the name ‘Haman’ is mentioned, the listeners make a loud, raucous noise by stomping, hollering, or with noisy implements to stamp out the memory of the evil man.
  2. Purim feast- it is customary to have a feast starting during the day with family and friends, good food, alcoholic beverages, singing, and laughter. The meal may take many hours, finishing after the day of Purim is over.
  3. Mishloach manos- Ideally, two ready-to-eat food items should be given to two different people on the day of Purim. The point is to encourage friendship and make people happy by gifting them something nice and delicious.
  4. Charity (Matanos L’evyonim)- There is a special emphasis on giving to those less fortunate than us on Purim. We are instructed to ‘give to anyone who asks’ without asking any questions. Everyone in the family, including children, should give money or donate food to the poor.

Ohel Sarah is a non-profit organization in Israel dedicated to caring for and advancing children and adults with special needs from age six until the end of their lives. Our goal is to give every person with special needs the tools they need to become as independent as possible and to live happy, meaningful, connected lives. We operate 5 schools for girls and boys, 5 employment and day centers for young adults, and 40 group homes for children, adults, and married couples. All 800 children and adults we care for daily feel loved, cared for, and validated by their Ohel Sarah family. 

The young adults at our centers have decorated Purim coloring sheets for children. Please support our mission and help the special needs population by downloading their sheets!

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