The History and Traditions of Purim [VIDEO]

Rabbi Brian Leiken is the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom in New City


Purim begins sundown on Saturday, Feb. 23 and ends the next night. The holiday is one of the more festive throughout the year for the Jewish people and celebrates when they were able to save themselves from extinction back when they were living in what was known as Persia.

Rabbi Brian Leiken, of Temple Beth Sholom in New City, recently spoke with Patch about the history of the holiday, some traditions that go along with it and how Purim relates to the current world.

Leiken called Purim the “Jewish Halloween,” since many people dress up in costumes to celebrate the holiday. At Temple Beth Sholom, Leiken said they holiday will be celebrated in a variety of ways, including the reading of the megillah, or Book of Esther, named for the Jewish girl who became queen of Persia and saved the Jewish people. During the reading, Leiken said children will be given noisemakers known as groggers, which they will spin while yelling out and booing every time the name "Haman", the villain of the story, is read.

Additionally, the temple will have a funny sketch mixing the story with pop culture. The skit is titled “Desperately Seeking Shushan,” reworking the title from the 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan” to include the word “Shushan,” which refers to the walled capital city in the Persia empire as well as the day after Purim, when the Jewish people of Shushan rested after defeating their enemies. The skit will also contain some songs from the 1980s reworded for the holiday.

“I have to give a ton of credit to Cantor Anna Zhar,” Leiken said. “She’s been working incredibly hard to put everything together and make it all come to fruition. She’s really created this fun opportunity to share the Purim story.”

After that, there will be a Purim carnival at the temple as well.

“This holiday is about chaos and joy, and getting meaning out of that,” Leiken said. “When you go to the carnival and see the joy on a kid’s face, or on an adult’s face, that’s what this is all about.”


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