The Jewish faith celebrates Purim

Rabbi Mendel Dinerman helps Josh Levine put on tefillin at the Purim carnvial at Valencia Heritage Park on Sunday. Wearing tefillin is a form of praying—the black, leather boxes contain scrolls of parchment with verses of the Torah on them. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Beginning Monday evening and continuing until sundown the following day, people in the Jewish faith will take part in festive activities and eat special desserts to celebrate Purim.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of the Adar in the Hebrew calendar by dressing in costumes, watching plays and eating hamentashen while enjoying the company of friends and family.

“We celebrate it because it was a negative day,” said Rabbi Jay Siegel from Congregation Beth Shalom. “So we take something negative and turn it into something positive. People create a festive atmosphere and dress in costumes. We also read the story of Purim twice during the celebration.”

Purim is recognized as the day Haman, an emissary in the Persain Empire, convinced King Ahasuerus to exterminate the Jews in 127 surrounding lands in the 4th century BCE. 

Haman was going to decide who lived and who died based on a lottery system used by lots, or a kind of stone that can help a person come to a decision.

On the 13th day of Adar, Haman was hanged after King Ahasuerus’ wife revealed her Jewish identity. The cousin of King Ahasuerus’ wife, Mordechai, took the place as emissary to the king after Haman’s death. The following day was celebrated by resting and festive activities, which are still done today.

Wearing masks and costumes is a tradition during Purim because they represent the elaborate costumes worn by King Ahasuerus’ wife, Mordechai and other Jews, which became associated with royalty after Haman’s death. To some, wearing costumes also symbolizes the miracle of Purim.

“Costumes are significant because it can be looked at as sort of a masquerade ball,” said Seigel. “Wearing costumes bring a certain level of fun and festivity to any occasion and it’s a way to turn a terrible day into joy.”

Hamentashen, a cookie with different types of fruit filling, is a traditional dessert eaten during Purim. It signifies the hat Haman used to wear, which resembles a triangle.

Community festivals can be held to celebrate Purim, which include putting on plays, teaching the story of Purim and embracing the company of friends and family.

“Purim means lot,” said Siegel. “(Haman) was going to use lots to decide who lives and who dies. So it’s sort of like a day of contradiction. We take what was going to be used against us and turn it into a day of joy.”

Metro Creative contributed to this report.

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