PURIM ("lots") is a minor Jewish festival (one in which work is not prohibited) that falls on the fourteenth day of Adar. It celebrates the deliverance, as told in the Book of Esther, of the Jews from the designs of Haman, who cast lots to determine the date of their destruction. According to some historians, the events recorded in Esther are fictitious, the festival probably having its origin in a Babylonian festival. But there is evidence that Purim was celebrated as a Jewish festival from the first century bce. Purim was observed also as a reminder to Jews that God often works "behind the scenes" in order to protect his people. Medieval thinkers found a basis for this idea in the absence of God's name in Esther, the only book in the Hebrew Bible in which the divine name does not appear.
The central feature of Purim is the reading of the Megillah (scroll), as the Book of Esther is called, in the form of a parchment scroll, written by hand and occasionally profusely illustrated. This public reading takes place on the night of Purim and again during the morning service in the synagogue. During this service the passage in the Torah concerning the blotting out of the name of Amalek (Ex. 17:8–16) is read because Haman was a descendant of Amalek. Based on this is the practice, frowned upon by some Jews, of making loud noises with rattles and the like whenever the name of Haman is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah.
Esther 9:22 speaks of sending portions to friends and giving alms to the poor. Hence the rabbinic rule is that each person must send a gift of at least two items of food to a friend and give at least one donation to two poor men. From the reference in Esther 9:17 to "days of feasting and joy," the rabbis further established the Purim festive meal, at which there is much imbibing of wine. A Talmudic statement has it that a man must drink until he is incapable of telling whether he is blessing Mordechai or cursing Haman.
As part of the Purim jollity, undoubtedly influenced by the Italian Carnival, people dress up, and children, especially, produce Purim plays in which they assume the characters mentioned in the Megillah. Rabbis objected to men dressing up as women and vice versa since this offends against the law in Deuteronomy 22:5, but Meir of Padua in the sixteenth century defended the practice as a harmless masquerade. In some communities it is the practice to appoint a "Purim rabbi" whose duty it is frivolously to manipulate even the most sacred texts.
The Jews of Shushan (Est. 9:18) celebrated Purim on the fifteenth day of Adar. To pay honor to Jerusalem, it was ordained that cities that, like Jerusalem, had walls around them in the days of Joshua should celebrate Purim on the fifteenth. Consequently, the citizens of Jerusalem today keep the festival and read the Megillah on Shushan Purim, the fifteenth of Adar, while for other Jews Purim is on the fourteenth of the month.
N. S. Doniach's Purim (Philadelphia, 1933) is a competent survey in English of the origins, rites, and ceremonies of Purim in which both the critical and the traditional views are fairly stated.
Polish, Daniel F. "Aspects of Esther: A Phenomenological Exploration of the 'Megillah' of Esther and the Origins of Purim." JSOT 85 (1999): 85–106.
Louis Jacobs (1987)
"Purim." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/purim
"Purim." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved August 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/purim
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.