The Nature of Purim:
The Uniqueness of Megillat Esther

The Book of Esther, which we read every year on Purim, is one of the five scrolls contained in the Ketuvim or Hagiographa (Shir ha-Shirim, Ruth, Eicha, Kohelet and Esther). Why is this book so unique? In what way does it differ from the other books of the Bible in content and form?

Megilat Esther is replete with irony. In this sense, not only is it unique, it is also differs entirely in style from the rest of the Bible. It differs, in particular, from the Bible's prophetic style, which favors open, direct messages and serious, austere expressions. The Book of Esther, on the other hand is riddled with humor - hidden laughter, concealed within open laughter.

G-d's name is not mentioned even once in this book, despite the existence of plot situations which would have been attributed to G-d's direct intervention, in the regular Biblical style, as a matter of course.

Each of the five Megillot is connected with a Jewish holiday or a remembrance day (Shir ha-Shirim to Pesach; Ruth to Shavu'oth; Eicha to Tisha Be-Av; Kohelet to Sukkot; Esther to Purim). Here, too, the Book of Esther is unique. All the other Megillot were attributed to the holiday subsequently, and the existence and the mitzvoth of the holiday are in no way tied to the Megillah, whereas the Book of Esther is the basis and the fulcrum of Purim. Take the reading of the Megillah away from Purim, and you have taken away its principal content and nature.

Thus, there is an essential connection between the ironic style of the Megillah and the ironic style of Purim. Just as this Megillah differs totally from the other books of the Bible, so Purim is totally different from other Jewish holidays, both in the popular customs associated with it (dressing up) and in the mitzvah, unique in Jewish tradition, of imbibing alcohol at the Purim meal to the point of intoxication ("ad delo yada"). Is this a "Jewish custom"? The Jews seem to have decided to lose control on this day and to change to the point where they no longer resemble Jews.

On Purim, the Jews do not only relate the story of the Megillah, they also act it out and live it anew each year.



JEWISH AND ISRAELI HOLIDAYS:
Reference material for teachers and students in the Diaspora, Edited by Dr. Aviv Ekroni & Rafi Banai From: Hetz,
Journal of
the former Department for Jewish Education and Culture in the Diaspora, WZO,
The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, JAFI 




 

 

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15 Jun 2005 / 8 Sivan 5765 0