Thursday, March 4, 2010

PURIM: Esther’s Holiday

Posted by Colleen & Eric

All dressed up and no place to go!

On the way to Ben Yehuda Street to see everyone else dressed up for Purim … This day “we” were the only ones – thanks Dad! 
Lillian has to “go”…

Purim in Jerusalem does not go unnoticed. The city is transformed into characters from all walks of life to celebrate the brave Esther allowing God to work through her to save the Jews from a genocide. As Purim approached the stores displayed their most attractive and creative costumes—much like you would see as Halloween approaches in America.

We wanted to celebrate with them, so each of the girls got a costume. The week before Purim, Eric was walking home from school on Wednesday and saw adults and kids dressed up. The assumption was that people start wearing their costumes early. The next day, we got up, got on our costumes and headed to Ben Yehuda Street—a very busy and popular street for festivities. However, to the girls’ horror, there were no other costumes being worn. They received many looks and smiles. Celine especially was visibly mortified. Lillian, of course, was leaping and dancing as she displayed her Tinker Bell costume. It didn’t matter to her is she was the only one dressed up—she could fly! Tally, was able to hide behind her poncho since it was a chilly day. Eric and I kept trying to reassure them that “It’s Purim!” It didn’t work. Thankfully, it started to sprinkle and we convinced Eric that no one was going to be at Ben Yehuda and we should return home. Eric found out the next day that the reason he saw costumes on Wednesday is because the schools have their parties then. He also found out that because Jerusalem is historically a “walled city,” celebration of Purim would be on Sunday and Monday instead of Saturday and Sunday.

Finally, Sunday came around and we were able to dress-up and go to the Synagogue for the reading of the story of Esther. Unfortunately, the rain which had persisted for several days continued on Sunday. Eric was at school, we were at home, and would catch a taxi to pick him up and continue on to the Synagogue.  The rain came in waves and just when we needed to flag the taxi, the sky didn’t hold back. I had the girls stay under the patio while I stood out on the street to wait for a taxi. You can imagine that every taxi that drove by was full. Finally, after about 10 minutes—enough time to soak my shoes and pants, a taxi stopped. I waved for the girls, though getting to the taxi through the gushing water was not easy—good thing Lillian could fly.

At the synagogue to celebrate Purim. 
Eric’s Prof Dr. Barkay in the background is just arriving too.  We were pleasantly surprised to see him there, although he is Jewish,there are so many synagogues in Jerusalem.


We arrived at the Synagogue in plenty of time to get a good seat, recognize some friends we had made and even run into one of Eric’s professors, a famous archeologist (Dr. Gabriel Barkay discovered the oldest extant scriptures ever found). As people poured in from the rain, the outfits were great. My favorite was an elderly lady wearing an old lady mask.

Our favorite costume.  The old lady with the old lady mask. Those are her actual hands and the cane is quite genuine, I assure you.


The service began with prayers and I think announcements--it was in Hebrew. Finally, the reading began. Each chapter was read, or rather sung, by a different person. We followed along in our English translation. Every time the name “Haman” (the villain of the story) was read there was much fanfare. A young man was sitting next to us with a bungalow drum. It was so fun to hear the room explode in noise. The girls were given some noise makers so they could join in. When the reading was complete, we had a dessert called hamantash, in Israel they are called Oznei Haman, “Haman’s Ears”. 

The reading of Esther is followed by families having festive meals and lots of drinking. Being “happy” is the goal of Purim.

The next day, “Purim Day” (as opposed to Purim night”), at Ben Yehuda street.


The following day, we again put costumes on and headed for Ben Yehuda—this time enjoying the costumes of others as well. Ben Yehuda never disappoints and for this people watcher, it was a wonderful experience. There were costumes of all sorts. However, the ghost and gobblins were nowhere to be found. The costumes appeared to  be mostly festive. People of all ages participate which really adds to the fun. Unfortunately, there is a lot of drinking so the police and soldiers were a common sight.

Is that a Gnome on Ben Yehuda?



The Origins of Purim

For this reason these days are known as Purim…These days were to be remembered and to be celebrated in every generation and in every family, every province, and every city.  Esther 9:26-28

Purim is a biblically mandated time of great celebration, in honor of the Jewish people avoiding genocide at the hands of the Persians under King Ahashuerus. 

Esther, a Jewish girl, lived in Persia, her ancestors having been taken there in the Babylonian captivity of 586. Now some years later, the Jewish people have largely acclimated to the Persian lifestyle even with positions of honor and importance.  Her Uncle, Mordecai was a ranking official of the king. At some point, Mordecai had uncovered a plot to have the king killed and was recorded as a hero in the kings annals, however he had never been rewarded for his efforts.

Back up a bit… At the start of the story, the king had deposed his wife, and sought a new queen.  Esther was ultimately chosen as the one.  No one knew, however that she was Jewish, for she was advised by Mordecai to hide her origin and faith.

Haman had the king issue a decree that everyone should bow to Haman to show homage to him.  Mordecai, however refused. Thus, Haman’s hatred for Mordecai (who did not hide his origin) spread to all the Jews. So Mordecai convinced the King to issue a decree that all the Jews should be killed. Haman then cast lots (the Persian word for “lots” is “pur”) to determine when this would take place. According to the lot or “pur”, it was thus decreed that on the 13th of Adar in the next year, all the Jews everywhere, in the province and every nation of the land should be exterminated. That’s bad, very bad.  Add to it, two problems, first Esther is a Jew, but remember, no one, including the King knew this.  And second, according to Persian protocol, once a law is put into place, it cannot be revoked (“the laws of the Medes and the Persians”).

Mordecai found out about this evil plot and got message to now Queen Esther.  So Esther fasts and prays for three days and goes before the king to let her know that this decree of Haman will result in her death.  This is a big deal, her going before the king, because unless the king summons you, if you ever just appear before him he will either grant you your request, or kill you.  There’s no alternative. All she asked though was that the king and Haman join her at a dinner that night.

At the dinner that night, the king asks what is her request, and she simply asks that the King and Haman come again this time to a great banquet.  Haman went home, filled with pride, and bragged to his wife about being asked not to one, but two dinners with the King and Queen.

That night, after the dinner, the King could not sleep, and ordered the annals be brought forth for him to read (like reading the dictionary to help you fall asleep).  He happened upon Mordecai’s saving of the king, and when asked, the king was told that nothing had yet been done to honor him.

This is where it gets good. The next morning, the King approaches evil Haman (boo) and asks, “What should be done for the man whom the King wishes to honor.” Haman, thinking the king is referring in 3rd person to the honor of himself, says:

"For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head.  Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes.  Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, `This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!'"

So, the King says, great idea, and you should be the man … (dramatic pause)… that leads the horse around with Mordecai riding on it. After Haman picked up his jaw off the ground, he did just this.  Imagine the scene, as Haman leads his hated enemy around on this horse, shouting proclamations of how great Mordecai is!  It would be like that nut-case president of Iran leading Israel’s prime minister around in a parade of honor.

It gets better…

At the banquet the next night, the queen lets the king know of Haman’s plot to have her people, and thus her, killed.  The king is incensed.  He leaves the room highly upset, Haman comes and grovels in Esther’s lap,pleading for his life.  The king returns to the room and thinks Haman is making moves on the queen.  Homer says, “Dooh!”

So, the king has Haman hung on the very gallows Haman had built for Mordecai.  But we still have a problem, the irrevocable “Law of the Medes and the Persians” … So to offset it the king issued a new decree that anyone who went out to kill the Jews would themselves be killed.  No one went out to kill the Jews and the people were spared. 

Thus, it was determined that the Jewish people should celebrate the survival of genocide in a celebration of the “pur”, or lots.  The plural of “pur” is “purim”.  Thus, the celebration of “Purim”.


Purim Videos and Pictures

Starts with the Rabbi to the left of the reader.  Ends with the drummer next to Eric.  Notice Eric’s Kippa.
This pan ends with the Old Lady in the Old Lady Mask.
Celine reads along…
Two sets of Boos.  Every time “Haman” the villain is named, the “boos” starts, including cool drumbeats.
A pan of the synagogue with Purim costumes.


DSC_0060 Costumes of all kinds, including super heroes.
DSC_0063 Notice there are as many, if not more, adults than kids dressed up.
DSC_0070 Something strange about praying with mouse ears on.
DSC_0074 Eric’s Prof, Dr. Gabi Barkay can be seen here, 2nd from the right, with the cowboy hat.



Carole L Robishaw said...

Such fun! I love the costumes. I 'll bet Lillian does a very good job of flying.

Tina said...

That is all so cool! Wow, Tally gets to experience the synagogues that we talked about just briefly in Acts while she was here. I am chuckling somewhat reading the part about the girls dressing up and to their surprise no one else was. Ha! ha! What a story for them to look back on. Oh dad and mom, that is too funny. Love you all and still missing you. I pray that you have gotten to visit with the Weeks by now.

Kathleen said...

Loved all of this. Read it when you first sent it but all I could think of to say was "Wow, that's cool." I haven't come up with anything better so that's gonna be my comment:
"Wow, that's cool!" :)
Love ya guys!

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that old lady was wearing a mask? Remember I live in a nursing home now and I think I saw her wheeling down my hall today. HA!