Israel: At Purim every Jew should have fun and eat “Haman’s ears”
When? Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. In 2019 it is from 20th - 21st March.
The meaning. This Jewish holiday commemorates the Jewish people’s deliverance in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them. According to the Book of Esther, a villain Haman, the royal vizier of King Ahasuerus, planned to kill all the Jews. But a sage Mordecai together with his cousin and adopted daughter Esther ruined his plans and saved the Jews’ lives. Esther became the Queen of Persia.
How it is celebrated. Purim is more of a national than a religious holiday. Before Purim, on the 13th of Adar, each Jew must follow a “fast of Esther”. After that every Jewish man and every woman is required to listen to the reading of the Book of Esther twice, at night and in the morning.
Another significant precept is “mishloach manot” or food gifts. At Purim every Jew must send another person at least two different kinds of food or food and drinks. In addition, the Book of Esther prescribes “gifts to the poor”. Charity is very important: the more gifts a Jew distributes the better.
The day of the Jews’ deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. That’s why there is a custom of masquerading in costumes and wearing masks. A meal should be abundant, with plenty of wine. Jewish sages say: “Everyone must get drunk at Purim to such condition so that they won’t be able to distinguish the words “Cursed Haman” and words “Blessed Mordecai”.
Family traditions. Irina Ttsantekidu moved with her family to Austria from Israel six months ago. “We honour the Jewish traditions and try to follow them”, she says. “At Purim my husband and I read special prayers and prepare a delicious meal. My children, Alexander (15) and Anna (12) put on costumes and we have a small family carnival at home. In Israel you can see the carnival live on the cities' streets and it was really a great fun for us. We always send gifts to our friends and give alms to poor people. I am not sure that we will do it this year. We are new here and are trying to find new friends”.
Irina says that the traditional on this holiday is “Haman’s ears” or “Haman’s pockets”. These are triangular sweet pastries filled with poppy seeds. Why are pastries stuffed with poppy seeds? Talmud relates that Queen Esther ate only seeds, nuts and poppy in the palace of Ahasuerus, since she had no access to kosher food. “Before the meal we burn candles”, Irina continues. “On this holiday every Jew should have fun, because 2,5 thousand years ago the Jews were able to defend their people and got to build the new temple in Jerusalem”.