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Some Purim Truths

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Purim Party with ImaBima and FrumeSarah!

Please enjoy this very informative entry from DadGiraffe:

Very often, materials distributed within the Jewish community around Purim fall into the category of Purimspiels–humorous, and not to be taken seriously.
You may think that what follows, therefore, is such a Purimspiel. It isn’t!

I have three “easy” Purim questions for you:

1. How were Esther and Mordecai related?

2. Why wouldn’t Mordecai bow down to Haman?

3. What do Hamantashen represent?

Here are the answers usually given to these questions:

1. Mordecai was Esther’s uncle…WRONG!

2. Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman because Jews bow only to God…WRONG!

3. Hamantashen are three-cornered pastries, reminding us of the three-cornered hat that Haman wore…WRONG!

I guess the questions are not so easy after all!

1. Esther 2:7 tells how Esther was related to Mordecai. She is described there as “the daughter of his uncle.” Hence, they were cousins. Mordecai was an older cousin, and when Esther was orphaned, he functioned as her foster father.

2. If a British subject of the Jewish faith were invited to meet H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, it would be proper protocol–from both British and Jewish viewpoints–for that individual to bow or curtsey. Clearly, Jews can bow before high officials to show respect for their office. The biblical text does not explicitly state why Mordecai refused to bow to Haman. The only information provided (Esther 3: 1-4) is that Mordecai had stated that he was Jew…as if this fact explained his behavior.

Here are a couple of possibilities:

A. Esther 3:1 states that Haman was an Agagite–in other words, a descendent of Agag. In the days of King Saul, Agag was the King of the Amalekites and the two warred against each other. The Amalekites were the group that had–in terrorist fashion–attacked the women, children, and elderly of the Israelites back in Moses’ time. Esther 2:5 tells us that Mordecai was the great grandson of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin. In I Samuel 9:1, we learn that Saul was the son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin. So…perhaps Mordecai felt it inappropriate to bow before a descendent of his family’s…and our people’s…enemy.

B. An alternate explnation: The Talmud suggests that Haman wore a breastplate and on this breastplate was the image of a deity. If Mordecai bowed before Haman, he would appear to be worshipping the idol. That he would not do.

3. American Jews often say that the 3-cornered Hamantashen are reminiscent of Haman’s 3-cornered hat. I suspect this is because–to the American imagination–a hat from olden times must have had 3 corners (think George Washington!). If these pastries have something to do with hats, why–in Israel–are they called Oznai Haman…Haman’s EARS?

The Yiddish name for the pastries is Hamantashen–Haman’s Pockets. While today, Hamantashen are filled with a variety of good-tasting items, and some old-timers (I include myself in this group) especially recall, and still enjoy, prune filling…yet, the most traditional filling is actually poppy seed. How do you say Poppy Seed in Yiddish? Mohn. Here’s my theory: There were delicious poppy seed pastries known as Mohntashen–poppy seed pockets. As a Purim joke, when prepared for Purim, they were called –not Mohntashen (poppy seed pockets)–but HuMohnTashen (Haman’s pockets).

BONUS QUESTION: What is the relationship between a Kraft Macaroni-and-Cheese Box and a Gragger?

MITZVAH ANSWER: If you bring a Kraft Macaroni-and-Cheese Box (or a Rice-a-Roni Box, etc) with you to our Purim service, you can use it as a Gragger…and then leave it in Shul. We’ll then distribute all these boxes of edibles to hungry people in Orange County. Is that a great idea…or what!

A freilach Purim!

That’s right!!

Just as we are instructed to stamp out Haman’s name with the sound of the grogger, this year we will stamp out hunger at the same time!

We’ve asked everyone to bring a box of a noisy, non-perishable, edible to this evening’s Megillah Reading. We’ll go to town, shaking the noodles (or rice pilaf or cous cous) as our noisemakers. Then, we’ll donate the food to Share Our Selves (SOS).

Look here and here and here for other ways to “do good” this Purim.

Chag Purim Samayach!!!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 21 March 2008 1:22 pm

    I wonder why we learn the Purim lore incorrectly. I understand that it isn’t easy to explain why Mordechai didn’t bow down to Haman if we don’t know the reason, but why does everyone always say that Mordechai is Esther’s uncle, when it’s just as easy to say he’s her cousin?

    Also, shouldn’t we call him Mordekai? That sounds more like Marduk.

  2. Saturday, 22 March 2008 7:59 pm

    I *love* the feed the hungry pasta grogger idea. Totally cool — and the grown up costume party.

  3. Frume Sarah permalink
    Wednesday, 26 March 2008 11:50 pm

    PG — 1. “We” didn’t learn it incorrectly at our shul, that’s for sure. DadGiraffe makes a ***big deal*** about the familial relationship. The language is a little tricky, but still!
    2. I am thinking that the age difference might have something to do with it.
    3. Yes, but it is a grammar thing that makes the dagesh fall out of the kaf.

    Meredith — thanks!! My Modern Jewish Mom friend (also Meredith!) told me about it and then I read more about it as http://www.rac.org/purim. It was a hit and we collected three HUGE bins of food!! And the party was super-fabulous…thanks to MomGiraffe and her super Jew Krew!

  4. Thursday, 27 March 2008 3:37 am

    There’s a lot more about why the midrash is that Mordechai is considered Esther’s uncle in this post:
    Esther His Uncle’s Daughter/His Niece?. I would suggest this question really warrants more than a yes or no answer.

  5. Frume Sarah permalink
    Thursday, 27 March 2008 11:25 am

    Ooo — thanks Leora! What a great entry about this perplexing issue. I’m going to tuck it away for next year 🙂

  6. John Lemley permalink
    Monday, 15 March 2010 2:55 pm

    I’m glad I stumbled onto your website. Do you have any information about the kinds of situations when the expression “a part of a day is equal to a whole” apply and when it does not apply? Thanks so much. John Lemley

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