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March 7, 2006 > Purim


Jewish Year 5766: sunset March 13, 2006 - nightfall March 14, 2006

In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on its thirteenth day ... on the day that the enemies of the Jews were expected to prevail over them, it was turned about: the Jews prevailed over their adversaries. - Esther 9:1

Purim is the ultimate biblical melodrama, complete with a wise and strong hero, a smart and beautiful damsel and a hateful villain. Set in ancient Persia, Esther, a fair Jewish maiden, raised by her cousin Mordecai, was destined to become part of King Ahasuerus' harem. Loved above all others, the king made Esther his queen not knowing she was a Jew.

Haman, a sleazy advisor to the king, hated Mordecai because he refused to bow to him. As revenge, Haman plotted to destroy the Jews. He told the king that the Jews were not fit subjects and should be eliminated, preparing a gallows for Mordecai. Mordecai told Esther that she was the only hope for her people and it was up to her to reveal Haman's deceit. This was a dilemma since to come into the presence of the king without being summoned was punishable by death. Esther fasted for three days and pondered the problem, finally gathering her courage and wits to persuade the king of Haman's treacherous character. She was successful and saved her people. Haman was hanged instead of Mordecai.

The joyous festival of Purim is filled with festivities and recounting Esther's story - written in the Book of Esther, commonly known as the "Megillah" (scroll) - with stomping feet, rattling "gragers" (noisemakers) and hissing at the mention of the name "Haman," while cheering for Mordecai and Esther. The word "Purim" means "lots" referring to the lottery of dates from which Haman chose the day of his planned massacre of the Jews. 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. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, usually in March. On this day, it is commanded to eat, drink and be merry. A common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen, "Haman's pockets." These triangular fruit-filled cookies represent Haman's three-cornered hat. During this festival, it is also considered a "mitvah" (an act of human kindness) to give gifts of food to others and money to the poor.

Local Purim activities:

Temple Beth Torah
42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
(510) 656-7141

Shmotown, an "untraditional annual telling of the Story of Esther."
Saturday, March 11; 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 12; 10 a.m.
Adult, $8; Seniors, $7; Under 13, Free

Purim Service (costumes encouraged)
Monday, March 13; 7:30 p.m.

Temple Beth Sholom
642 Dolores Avenue, San Leandro
(510) 357-8505

Purim Carnival
Sunday, March 12; 11 a.m.

Megillah Reading
Monday, March 13; 7 p.m.

Congregation Shir Ami
4529 Malabar Ave., Castro Valley
(510) 537-1787

Purim Party
Friday, March 17; 8 p.m.

Purim Carnival
Sunday, March 19; 1 - 4 p.m.

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