Purim celebrates the victory of the Jews over Haman’s “final solution,” in 356 BCE. It’s a deceptively childlike holiday. Families gather in the synagogue to hear the colorful Purim story as written by its heroes, Queen Esther and her adoptive father, Mordechai. There’s a happy feeling in the streets as children running around in costumes deliver baskets full of goodies all over the neighborhood. Here are some eco-friendly costume ideas for your little ones. Grownups at the festive lunch indulge freely in wine. Once Purim’s over, here are some ways to reuse your wine bottles.
Yet all this good cheer is the bright side of a grim episode in Jewish history. Babylonian King Ahasuerus’s vizier, Haman, persuaded the king to approve a decree purging all his lands of the Jews. If the king had not revoked the decree, the entire Jewish nation would have been annihilated then and there, for he ruled over all of the civilized world. Today’s masks and costumes commemorate Queen Esther’s concealment of her Jewishness till the night when she dramatically revealed her true self to the besotted King and exposed Haman’s plot to kill her people.
Ahasuerus ordered Haman executed. Mordechai, had served the king faithfully as court adviser and indeed had saved his life previously; he took Haman’s place in authority. From from despair to salvation and from concealment to joyful revelation – these are some of the themes that run through the Purim holiday.
Esther and Mordechai commanded Jews to celebrate their redemption for ever after, with four special mitzvot. They are: hearing the megillah– the story of Purim – on Purim night and again on Purim day; giving the poor extra charity; enjoying a festive meal in the daytime, and sending gifts of ready-to-eat food to neighbors and friends. All of these commandments strengthen community ties, but I have to say that the one children like most is the mishlochei manot: the Purim baskets stuffed with goodies.
How many baskets should I send out? Each adult person should gift at least another two people. Kids love to fix up baskets for their own friends too.
What should I put in the Purim baskets? There should be at least two totally different kinds of foods in each basket, for example, a slice of cake and a fruit. Two of the baskets should contain a drink, like a bottle of juice – or wine. There’s no need to create elaborate, expensive baskets to impress your neighbors. Home-made cookies like our Hamentaschen and condiments like our za’atar pesto are more appreciated than tons of junky candy. At least, by the grownups.
Who should deliver them? A third party should deliver your baskets. Kids make good delivery boys and girls, and they love showing up at people’s doors in their costumes. It’s perfectly acceptable to mail a gift basket to someone who lives far.
And who should get my baskets? Men should send to men, and women to women. Often though, a family will send a basket to another family, that way including everyone in a blanket gift.
Purim 2018 outside of Israel is celebrated on Wednesday night, the 28th of February at night, and ends Thursday the 1st of March at sunset. In Israel it’s celebrated on March 1-2.
More on Purim here on Green Prophet:
- Green Your Mitzvot for Purim
- Eco Rabb: On Purim and Building a Good Society
- Celebrate Purim the Old-Fashioned Way
Photo of Purim basket by dremiel via Flickr.