Saturday, March 14, 2015

Celebrating #Purim and Esther #FCblogger

I recently had the joy of planning and organizing a family night. One like we have never done before. It was all about Queen Esther and Purim and I believe we all came away having learned something new. We are not Jewish, but as a Christian I have always had an interest in this subject along with the whole wonderful story of a brave Jewish young woman saving her people from a massacre. It is an amazing account and I think after participating in this night that we felt a kindred connection to these people.

The first thing I did after learning that I was to host this night was to do my research. I knew the story of Esther as I do read my Bible:) But I wanted to get more background story. How did Purim come about? Why is it called Purim? What did Esther really have to go through in her palace life? And how did this all relate to us today? Needless to say, it was an immense study. I found some helpful books at Family Christian that did wonders in my research including Ruth & Esther(part of the Life Change Series) and Finding Favor with the King by Tommy Tenney. That last one has become a part of my daily morning reading. It is an amazing book!!

I also picked up a copy of Becoming a Woman of Beauty & Strength by Elizabeth George. This is more of a study about being a woman after God's heart than a research book and I found myself going through it with my Bible and pencil. It is a great book and some things were brought up that I hadn't thought about.

The one thing I didn't find was a set on Feasts of the Bible. I was really looking forward to purchasing this as it looked amazing but I couldn't find it at either store I went to. So I had to make do with what I found online.

During the time of King Ahasuerus, one of his ministers, Haman, sought to destroy the Jews in revenge for being snubbed by the Jew Mordecai, who refused to bow down to him. With the king's authority, he draws lots (pur) to determine the fateful day, which falls on the 13th of the month of Adar.
Learning of this decree, Mordecai approaches the new queen, his cousin Esther, to intercede with the king. Esther, who has not revealed her Judaism publicly, fasts for three days in preparation for this task. At a banquet for the king and Haman, she denounces the evil Haman, who is eventually hanged. Because a royal decree cannot be rescinded--
including the decree ordering the extermination of the Jews--Mordecai must send another decree to all the provinces. This letter authorizes the Jews to protect themselves from their enemies. The days following the Jews' struggle with their enemies (the 14th and 15th of Adar) are declared days of feasting and merrymaking, today celebrated as Purim.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. The 13th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews, and the day that the Jews battled their enemies for their lives. On the day afterwards, the 14th, they celebrated their survival. In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, because the book of Esther says that in Shushan (a walled city), deliverance from the massacre was not complete until the next day. The 15th is referred to as Shushan Purim.
In leap years, when there are two months of Adar, Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, so it is always one month before Passover. The 14th day of the first Adar in a leap year is celebrated as a minor holiday called Purim Katan, which means "little Purim." There are no specific observances for Purim Katan; however, a person should celebrate the holiday and should not mourn or fast. Some communities also observe a "Purim Katan" on the anniversary of any day when their community was saved from a catastrophe, destruction, evil or oppression.
The word "Purim" means "lots" and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre.
The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.
The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. Although there are five books of Jewish scripture that are properly referred to as megillahs (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), this is the one people usually mean when they speak of The Megillah. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot out the name of Haman."
We are also commanded to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai," though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. A person certainly should not become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill. In addition, recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation.
In addition, we are commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as shalach manos (lit. sending out portions). Among Ashkenazic Jews, a common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen (lit. Haman's pockets). These triangular fruit-filled cookies are supposed to represent Haman's three-cornered hat. My recipe is included below.
It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, to perform plays and parodies, and to hold beauty contests. I have heard that the usual prohibitions against cross-dressing are lifted during this holiday, but I am not certain about that. Americans sometimes refer to Purim as the Jewish Mardi Gras.
Purim is not subject to the sabbath-like restrictions on work that some other holidays are; however, some sources indicate that we should not go about our ordinary business on Purim out of respect for the holiday.

For our night we got together and made some cookies known as Hamantashen cookies. Basically they are like sugar cookies with jam inside. Take a look at the pictures and see how much fun we had:)

The girls loved making them, rolling out the dough and using a glass to cut out the circles. Now the embarrassing thing is that I couldn't get the tri-hat shape right! The thirteen year old had to do them and they came out looking great. Okay, not all of them:) But overall the shape was good. We used two different jams but I will definitely be trying these out again with other flavors.

We had a lot of fun throughout the night and watched a movie called Bible Stories: Esther. This is one we hadn't seen before and it had some insights in areas the other movies didn't. We have seen One Night With The king as well as the Pureflix film about Esther so I tried to find one we hadn't already viewed. My favorite aspect of this film is the look at what happened after her one night. This movie continues past that and shows a little bit of how Purim came about and the Jews continuing their life.

So, I had a totally wonderful time, as did the whole family. I felt like we maybe learned as well as had fun. It brought to mind the time we attended a Messianic Jewish Synagogue one night. It was beautiful and they had such joy. I remember well the dancing and music that accompanied their worship. It was an amazing time.

Hopefully you have enjoyed reading my post and seeing how we participated in Purim. Maybe next year you will feel called to do something as well. Thank you for reading!

I received two gift certificates for Family Christian to include products in my post but the general post is all mine. 

**DISCLOSURE: Please read my full disclosure policy HERE.**


Coupon Gal (Andi) said...

Praise God for this post - I am a completed Jew (a Jew who believes in Jesus) and totally got what you were writing about - BLESSINGS!

Heather Lawrence said...

Looks like you guys had a ton of fun!
The story of Esther is one of my favourites. Such courage! I think if I remember correctly this was also one of the first mentions of fasting in the Bible as well but I might be off. :0)

Traci Rhoades said...

I loved this post! It sounds like you learned a ton about Purim from your research. Plus you had great family time! One of these days, I'm going to make it to a Purim celebration. Maybe in Israel :) Thanks for all your work.

Iris said...

Thank you for sharing, I've always loved the book of Esther! I'll have to look into those great reads and those cookies look yummy. :-)

Kristie said...

I love the story of Esther but I don't know anything about Purim. Thanks for all your research and information. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

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