Purim may become the first officially recognized American Jewish holiday. This year it is observed the evening of March 7. Purim is thought of as a sign of spring. Purim joins Mardi gras and St. Patrick’s Day as a celebration of great fun. Just as everyone feels Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, Purim is a holiday when everyone can feel Jewish.
The Bible book of Esther is the inspiration for Purim. But Purim is not a religious holiday. God is never mentioned in the Book of Esther.
The events take place entirely in Persia, not Israel. There the Jews seem to be deeply involved in the political life in the capitol of the Persian Empire. They certainly are integrated enough that a nice Jewish girl named Esther can marry the King. The Jews use their lobbying power, in the form of Queen Esther, to overcome a threat of destruction. Haman’s conspiracy is stopped and Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, the power behind her throne, is promoted to a status of respect and authority.
Purim is celebrated in a variety of wonderful ways: singing, dancing, eating and drinking. Purim is not a time for beer-drinking. It is, rather, a time to drink the finest wines and liquors. Purim is important because it kept Jewish humor alive in the most horrible circumstances of their persecution by Europeans.
Two other customs of Purim are the giving the gifts of pastry and fruits to our neighbors (the opposite of the Halloween trick or treat) and the required gifts to the poor, usually in cash, so everyone will be able to celebrate.
So raise a glass and say “l’chaim” and enjoy Purim.