May 21, 2024 /


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Ritually, we mark Purim by coming together to read the Book of Esther – a book that chronicles the deeds of Esther and her cousin Mordechai who saved the Jews from annihilation at the hands of the wicked Haman. Interestingly, the book does not mention God anywhere in its text, and instead chooses to focus on our own redemptive abilities to save others from peril. In the Book of Esther, Mordechai raises Esther, our heroine. Eventually, she is brought to King Ahashverus’s court to be part of the King’s harem. The king falls in love with Esther and makes her his queen – all the while not knowing that she is a Jew!

Haman, an advisor to King Ahashverus, plots against the Jews and convinces the king to execute all the Jews living under his rule. Mordechai, however, convinces Queen Esther to intervene on behalf of her people, the Jews. And in the last hour, having revealed herself as a Jew to the king, Esther saves the Jews of Persia.

Another observance of Purim is the giving of shalch manot – the charitable giving of food and drink. Many communities engage this observance by making small care packages of cookies and candy to give to their friends and by making charitable contributions to organizations that fight hunger.

Culturally, Purim is a time of merriment, silliness, and celebration. On Purim, we wear fanciful costumes often inspired by the story of the Book of Esther. While we don our costumes, at the synagogue, when we come together to hear the reading of the Book of Esther, we take up noise makers called groggers, we shout, we scream, and stomp every time we hear the name Haman. As the villain of the story, we do this blot out the name of a man who worked to kill the Jews of Persia (with the added benefit of the joy that noise making can bring!).

Many communities have Purim carnivals for families that are filled with fun, games, and activities for children and parents of all ages, as well as costume parties and other nonsensical events.  In some communities it is traditional for adults to drink and to become inebriated until they can no longer discern between the phrases “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai” – although this practice cannot infringe upon the fulfillment of mitzvahs. Because this practice can be difficult and even dangerous for those who struggle with addiction, many communities find greater value in other ways of celebration and focus instead on hi-jinks and family silliness.  And as ever, a mainstay to every Purim celebration is hamentaschen (literally meaning Haman’s pockets) – a triangular cookie with a sweet filling. Try the recipe on the back of this brochure and remember to experiment with fillings – the sky’s the limit!

Make your own Hammentaschen!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Apricot filling Option:
1/2 lb. chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon

Honey-nut filling Option
1 cup honey
1 1/4 cups chopped toasted pecans
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon

Makes about 24

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Select a filling option, combine ingredients, and mix well. To prepare dough, mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls and then combine. Mixture will be crumbly and look dry; use hands to form into a lump. Knead a few times on a floured board. Roll out half the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and cut into circles with a cookie cutter. Repeat with remaining dough.

Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle and fold dough to form a triangle, covering as much filling as possible. If needed, use a little water to stick edges of dough together. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes, until edges begin to brown.

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