Bay Area Bloggers
Hewn & Hammered
Jill's Definition of Weblog
Le Blaugue à Beleg
The Year of Coffee Blog
Tag Cloud: 50 Tags
Tag Cloud: 125 Tags
Tag Cloud: 250 Tags
Followers of current events in Iran may be surprised to hear that there has been a close relationship between Jews and Persians (Iranians) for thousands of years. For Jews familiar with their own history and religious holidays, however, this is no surprise. In fact, it is celebrated in the festival called Purim, which in 2006 will begin at sunset on March 13. Purim celebrates a narrow escape from annnihilation for Iranian Jews thanks to a Jewish woman named Myrtle (also called Esther and Hadassah). Esther, who had become the queen of Persia, persuaded the king to stop a plot to massacre the Jews. No, I'm not making this up— it's all there in the Judaeo-Christian bible, where Esther has her own book, called, as one might expect, the Book of Esther. The events took place in the ancient capital of Susa (Hebrew Shushan, moderrn Shush).
The king, who was probably the same powerful king known to the West via the Greek language as Xerxes (Khashayar Shah in Persian and Ahashverosh in biblical Hebrew), ruled a vast empire. An Agagite (whatever that was) named Haman hatched the plot to exterminate Jews by hanging them on gallows his men had constructed, and the plot came to the attention of Esther's cousin Mordechai, who tipped off Esther, who, in turn, tipped off the King Xerxes. The king took no action himself against Haman and his faction, but what he did was extraordinary: he gave the Jews of Persia his royal permission to defend themselves against Haman, which they promptly did, and Haman and his co-conspirators perished on the gallows that had been set up to kill Jews. The tomb of Esther and Moredechai is one of the landmarks today in the city of Hamadan, Iran.There are many Persian Jews living today, including the President of Israel (not the same office as the Prime Minister); and many exiled Iranian Jews, as well as other exiled Iranians, live in Los Angeles.
Jews celebrate this unique festival in a unique way: they encourage the liberal consumption of alcoholic beverages. (As far as I know, not even St. Patrick did that, although if you visit an Irish bar on the saint's day, coming up this year right after Purim, you might think otherwise.) The goal of Purim's hard drinking is to assist the celebrants to forget all about Haman and his ilk. The Book of Esther, known as the Megillah, is read aloud in Hebrew, having given rise to the Jewish phrase, "The whole megillah," meaning roughly, "the whole enchilada." There are special Purim cakes, three-cornered crusts filled with poppy seeds, prunes, or apricots, called hamantaschen. Purim is also an occasion for Jewish children to dress up in costumes, like Hallowe'en. But festivity aside, the whole history of Purim has an eerie resonance with what is happening today. As the French are quoted all too often, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose:" the more things change the more they stay the same.| Technorati tags: Purim Esther Persia Xerxes
Copyright ©2004, 2005, 2006 Jonathan David Leavitt