Purim: Profile & Origins

Profile & Origins of Purim

Name of Festival: Purim

Source of the holiday's name:

In the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, in the first month, Nisan, they cast lots, Pur as it is called, in the presence of Haman, taking day by day and month by month, and the lot fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.
Esther 3:7

So the Jews undertook to continue the practice they had begun in accordance with Mordekhai's letter. This they did because Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted to destroy the Jews and had cast lots, Pur as it is called, with intent to crush and destroy them. But when the matter came before the king, he issued written orders that the wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should recoil on his own head, and that he and his sons be hanged on the gallows. Therefore, these days were named Purim after the word Pur. Accordingly, because of all that was written in this letter, because of all they had seen and experienced in this matterr, the Jews resolved and undertook that they would without fail keep these two days as a yearly festival in the prescribed manner and at the appointed time.
Esther 9:24-27

Teacher Focus

Comprehension

  1. Why is the holiday called Purim?
  2. Who established the holiday of Purim?

Food for Thought

  1. Why, in your opinion, did the Jews not try to give the holiday some other name?
  2. If YOU had to select a name by which the holiday would be known to all future generations, what name would you choose?

Date: 14 and 15 Adar Source for the Date:

Then Mordekhai set these things on record and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, far and near, binding them to keep the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month Adar, year by year, as the days on which the Jews obtained relief from their enemies and as the month which was changed for them from sorrow into Joy, from a time of mourning to a holiday. They were to observe them as days of feasting and joy, days for sending presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
Esther 9:20-22

Teacher Focus

  1. Read Esther 9:1-2 and Esther 9:15-22.
  2. When did the Jews do battle and when did they rest throughout the Persian Empire?
  3. When did they do battle and when did they rest in the capital city Shushan?
  4. Fill in the following table according to the Biblical passages, noting when the Jew did battle and when they rested. For each date in each locale, write "Fought" or "Rested".

A. At the Time of Mordekhai and Esther


13 Adar 14 Adar 15 Adar
Shushan


The Rest of the Persian Empire


B. In Our Time


13 Adar 14 Adar 15 Adar
Shushan and Other Walled Cities


The Rest of the Persian Empire


s

  1. Read verses 20-22 again.
  2. How did our Sages set the dates for Purim in the land of Israel and the Diaspora?

Sources and Works that Relate to the Holiday

  • Biblical Sources:

    The book of Esther, known in Hebrew as Megillat Esther, one of the five Megillot (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther).

  • Sources in the Oral Law:

    The main source is the tractate, Megillah in the Mishnah and Talmud.

  • Works Specially Devoted to the Holiday:

    The book of Esther Historical Background to the Book of Esther. The book of Esther is one of the five Megillot included in the twenty- four books of the Bible. According to tradition, Esther was written by Mordekhai and Esther with the help of 124 Sages, members of the Great Assembly. The story related in Esther took place before the Second Temple was built (some three hundred years before the events commemorated by Hanukkah).

    The King Ahasuerus mentioned in the book of Esther is probably the Persian king, Khshayarsha, whom the Greeks called Xerxes, son of Darius I. Xerxes reigned for approximately twenty years, from 486 to 465 B.C.E. Several facts known about his life fit what is written in the Megillah. Xerxes built himself a palace in Shushan, the capital city, and he was known for his opulent feasts and for the ostentatious gifts he gave. Also the information provided by the Megillah on Ahasuerus's kingdom that spanned 127 countries from India to Kush (Kush is apparently Nubia, an area that includes southern Egypt and northern Sudan) fits the size of the Persian Empire at the end of the sixth century B.C.E., at the time of the reign of Xerxes' father Darius.

    His empire included Persia, the northwestern portion of India, Asia Minor, Turkey, Macedonia, Babylonia, Phoenicia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and portions of the Arabian Peninsula.

    "Hag Purim", written and edited by Miriam Mishal, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Aliyah Department.




 

 

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15 Jun 2005 / 8 Sivan 5765 0