Scrolling Headlines:

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UMass Board of Trustees votes 11-2 to raise tuition and fees an average of 5.8 percent -

July 14, 2016

Mike Stone announces retirement following 2017 season -

July 13, 2016

‘Warcraft’ delivers a likeable mess -

July 5, 2016

Former UMass field hockey coach Carla Tagliente accepts job at Princeton -

June 29, 2016

50 Activists attend meeting as UMass Board of Trustees approves motion of divestment from fossil fuel companies -

June 16, 2016

Four former Minutemen depart from UMass hockey program -

June 14, 2016

Boston Calling 2016 delivers rousing farewell to City Hall Plaza -

June 2, 2016

Sufjan Stevens unearths quirk at Boston Calling -

June 2, 2016

The Collegian live tweets Boston Calling -

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UMass baseball finishes season with sweep over George Mason -

May 22, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse falls in NCAA quarterfinal -

May 22, 2016

‘Green Room’ is a bloody blast of survival horror -

May 21, 2016

DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud -

May 18, 2016

Despite tallying double-digit hits, UMass baseball falls to Fairfield Tuesday afternoon -

May 17, 2016

Radiohead returns to the top with gorgeous, illuminating ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ -

May 16, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse advances to quarterfinal of NCAA tournament -

May 16, 2016

UMass baseball outlasts Rhode Island in series finale behind strong pitching of Brandon Walsh -

May 15, 2016

Eileen McDonald’s overtime goal advances UMass women’s lacrosse in NCAA tournament -

May 14, 2016

12 UMass students face possible arrests in connection to an alleged bad LSD trip -

May 14, 2016

Chag Purim Sameach!

Flickr/Susan 2KoP

At times it may seem like the dreary month of February has little to offer in the realm of holiday celebrations aside from a day where love is commercialized in nauseating shades of pink. This year, however, the best of February has yet to come: the Jewish holiday of Purim falls this Saturday night, on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Purim is a day filled with merriment and frivolity, celebrating the Jewish people’s narrow escape from destruction under the ancient Persian Empire.

The elaborate story of the Jews’ salvation is chronicled in the biblical book of Esther. The story opens by introducing King Ahashverosh, an insomniac Persian monarch with alcoholic tendencies who was somehow granted dictatorial rule over 127 Persian provinces. In the midst of a continuous 180 day drinking bash, the king orders his Queen Vashti to stop by so he can show off her beauty to all his friends. When Vashti refuses to oblige, the king wrathfully removes her from the post.

Subsequently, the king holds a pageant to select a new queen. After much deliberation, he chooses Esther, a Jewish woman who was orphaned at a young age and raised by her cousin Mordechai. Just as the story begins to resemble the end of a Disney princess movie, however, there is a minor plot twist: Esther’s “happily ever after” is somewhat offset by her significant decision, at her cousin’s advice, to not disclose her Jewish identity to the king.

Enter the villain in the story — Haman, the king’s chief advisor. Haman is deeply insulted when Esther’s cousin Mordechai refuses to bow down to him at the palace gate. Haman is so insulted, in fact, that he plots to kill not only Mordechai but all the Jews in the Persian Empire. In typical villain fashion, Haman casts lots and randomly selects the thirteenth of Adar as the doomed day of destruction. Purim, the Hebrew word for “lots,” derives its name from Haman’s decision-making method.

Word of Haman’s wicked plan eventually reaches Esther, who declares a three-day fast among the Jews of the kingdom and boldly approaches the king at the end of the third day with the intent to save her people. A couple of drunken feasts later, the King finally learns of Esther’s Jewish identity, and his love for her conquers his blind approval of Haman’s schemes.

In an extraordinary reversal of fortune, the king orders Haman to be hanged on the gallows that was originally intended for Mordechai, Mordechai is appointed second-in-rank to the king, and the Jews of the Persian Empire are saved from annihilation. Despite the miraculous nature of the Purim story, the name of God is notably absent from the biblical account – emphasizing the importance of human action in achieving redemptive outcomes.

On the day of Purim, it is traditional to listen to the chanting of the Book of Esther, which is read from a ‘Megillah,’ or scroll. The Megillah reading tends to be a rowdy affair since audience participation is highly encouraged: at each mention of Haman’s name in the story, it is customary to shake ‘graggers,’ or noise makers, to blot out his name. Since the frequency of Haman’s name in the narrative at times surpasses even the frequency of Harry’s name in the ‘Harry Potter’ series, the reading is constantly interrupted and rarely coherent. Humorous or satirical re-enactments of the Purim story, known as Purim ‘spiels,’ are often performed as well.

Due to the themes of deception in the Book of Esther, it is traditional to dress up in costume on Purim. Unlike the unspoken rules surrounding Halloween, the costume tradition applies not only to young children but to all members of the community – providing a rare opportunity to witness your parents’ otherwise self-respecting friends dressed in zany superhero outfits.

For sustenance, it is customary to eat triangle-shaped pastries filled with various types of jam, or better yet, nutella. These pastries are commonly known as ‘Hamentashen,’ which is the Yiddish word for “Haman’s pockets.” The Hebrew word for the pastries, ‘Oznei Haman,’ more cannibalistically – and less appetizingly – translates as “Haman’s ears.”

Further Purim traditions include eating a festive meal, getting wildly intoxicated and giving charity to the poor. In addition, it is customary to exchange care packages of food and drink – known as ‘Mishlochei Manot’ – with friends and family.

The Jewish Student Union will be hosting a Masquerade Purim carnival and costume party this Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the UMass Hillel House. All are welcome to attend and celebrate what is probably the most joyous, frivolous and underrated holiday on the Jewish calendar. Chag Purim Sameach!

Merav Kaufman is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at merav@student.umass.edu.

 

Comments
2 Responses to “Chag Purim Sameach!”
  1. David Hunt, 1990 says:

    Am Yisrael Chai!

  2. Eric Tori says:

    classic Kaufman.

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