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Study and Theory/

Alphabet of Purim Concepts

Adar is the last month of the ancient Hebrew calendar beginning in Nissan: “it shall be the first month of the year to you” (Exodus 12:2) 2) and the sixth in the agricultural Hebrew calendar beginning in Tishrei. The Babylonian name Adar, commonly used in the post-Biblical literature is mentioned in the Bible, outside of the Book of Esther, only once in the Book of Ezra. Opinions differ with regard to the name’s meaning:

a. Adara = granary, alluding to preparation of the threshing floor for the nearing harvest;

b. Adaro = gloomy, since the sky is still cloudy during this month, as Hazal have said: In Tevet, Shevat and Adar, [the sun] travels through the wilderness, so as not to dry up the seeds [in the ground] (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim, 94b).

The joy of the Purim holiday begins already on Rosh Chodesh (first day of the month) Adar. As the well-known saying goes - when Adar enters, joy increases.


Important event in the month of Adar:

1 Adar:

  • In the period of the temple they would collect Shekels (currency) from the public for the purchase of public sacrifices, and to prepare Jerusalem for the pilgrims arriving on Passover: Repair of the roads, streets and water wells. For this reason, on the Sabbath just before Rosh Chodesh they would read the Shekalim section, the first of four special sections read during the month of Adar (see: two days of Purim).

  • A public appeal written by Yosef Vitkin was sent from the Land of Israel to young Jews “whose hearts are with their people and Zion” (1905).

2 Adar:

  • The Damascus Blood Libel (1840)

3 Adar:

  • Recruitment of volunteers to the Jewish Battalion during the First World War (1918).

  • Formation of the first government of the State of Israel, headed by David Ben-Gurion (1949).

7 Adar:

  • Date of birth and death of Moses.

  • This day is Memorial Day for fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown.

  • Bnei Moshe Zionist Order established by Ahad Ha’am and his students (1889).

  • Sinking of the Struma immigrant ship in the Black Sea, carrying 770 Jews (1942).

9 Adar:

  • IDF arrives at Eilat on liberation campaign. (1949).

11 Adar:

  • Memorial Day to Joseph Trumpeldor and the fallen of Tel Hai in 1920.

13 Adar:

  • Esther’s fast; commemorating Esther’s three-day fast before going to appeal to Achashverosh to cancel Haman’s decree to annihilate, kill and get rid of all the Jews.

14 Adar:

  • Purim holiday

15 Adar:

  • Purim holiday in cities surrounded by walls since the days of Yehoshua (Joshua) Bin-Nun; for this reason, in Jerusalem Purim is celebrated one day later than other cities.

18 Adar:

  • Establishment of the Jewish Battalion in Alexandria, Egypt during the First World War (1918)

22 Adar:

  • Establishment of Kibbutz Hanita in the Upper Galilee (1938);

22 Adar:

  • Attack on Kibbutz Tirat Zvi repelled during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt (1939).


Adar I and Adar II

Adar I is the month added to the Hebrew calendar in a leap year (Shanah Me'uberet, or pregnant year), in order to match the moon year according to which the Hebrew calendar works and the sun year that determines the seasons in which the Jewish holidays are celebrated (for example: Passover in the spring and Succoth in the fall). Since the moon calendar is 11 days shorter than the sun calendar, a month must be added approximately every three years. Altogether, seven years should be added every 19 years. Therefore, the month of Adar is added, the last month of the year according to the Biblical count. In Adar II we mark all the dates that fall in this month (see: Adar).


Hamentashen (Haman’s ears)
Special cookies made for Purim, in triangular shape usually filled with poppy seeds or other filling. The name was given apparently because of its shape, resembling a human ear, or perhaps the triangular hat of ministers in ancient times. The name’s origin could be from the legend of Haman who went in to see the king while hunched, mortified and disgraced. (Sefer Ha’aggadah 70:5119).


Achshedarfanim (Satraps)
Governers of provinces in Persia. “... and the satraps” (Esther 9:3) is the longest word in the Bible (11 Hebrew letters).


Bigthan and Teresh
Two of the king’s guards who wanted to kill the king (Book of Esther 3:21-23).


Enclosed garden of the king’s palace
It was there that King Achashverosh held lavish banquets for his people (Book of Esther 1, 5).


One of Haman’s sons.


Hebrew name of Queen Esther.


First wife of Achashverosh, considered by many as the first feminist.


Haman’s youngest son.


Haman’s wife; she was the one who advised him to prepare the hanging tree for Mordechai, and later understood that Haman’s fate was sealed, and that the king would remove him from his seat.


One of the eunuchs who served King Achashverosh, and reminded him of the tree Haman prepared for Mordechai; hence, it was said of him: “And Harbona too is remembered favorably” (Esther Raba 9,10).


The king’s ring
In order for Haman’s decrees to be carried out, they had to be stamped with the king’s ring (Book of Esther 3, 10, 12). The king had to use the same ring when asked by Esther to cancel the decrees (Book of Esther 8, 10).


Day of feast and party
when the Jews were saved from the decrees of Haman the wicked, they set that day, 14 Adar, as a day of celebration and joy, to commemorate the rescue (Book of Esther 9, 17).


Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor
In order to thank Mordechai for saving the king, King Ahashverosh ordered Haman the wicked to dress Mordechai in royal attire, ride him on a horse on which the king rode, and declare before him: Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor. (Book of Esther 6:6-11).


A favorite Purim costume.


Purim precepts
Reading the Book, sending gifts (mishloach manot), gifts to the poor, Purim celebration (see explanation above).


On the contrary
An expression from the Book of Esther, symbolizing the twist in the plot: when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration (Book of Esther 9, 22). But contrary to expectations, the Jews gained power over their enemies (Book of Esther 9, 1). Also symbolizes wearing costumes, when each person dresses up and changes his appearance.


In the Book of Esther it is told that Mordechai saved Achashverosh from assassination by the two guards, Bigthan and Teresh (Book of Esther 2:21-23). The story was written in the king’s memoir, and on the night in the plot takes a turn in the Book, the king’s sleep evaded him and he asked to read the memoir to him. He was then reminded of the story, and from here began the rescue of Mordechai and the Jews (Book of Esther 6).


Celebrations and processions held in towns and settlements throughout Israel and especially Tel Aviv, to commemorate Purim. The first masquerade was held in Tel Aviv in 1912. The event was the initiative of Abraham Aldema, then a teacher at Gymnasia Herzliya. One of the holiday’s main organizers was Baruch Agadati, one of the pioneers of Tel Aviv, whose name is connected with the Adloyadas. The term Adloyada was proposed by writer Y. D. Berkowitz in 1932, and is derived from the expression: a person is obligated to drink on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘arur Haman’ (cursed be Haman) and ‘baruch Mordechai’ (blessed be Mordechai) (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 7b).


Thank You for the Miracles (Al Hanissim) 

A prayer of thanksgiving said in the Amidah prayer (the Shmoneh Esreh) on Chanuka and on Purim, in memory of the miracles performed for the Jewish People on these two holidays.

Wording of the Al Hanissim prayer for Purim:

We thank you also for the miracles,​ for the redemptio​n, for the mighty deeds and saving acts, wrought by you, as well as for the wars which you waged for our fathers in days of old, at this season (same wording for both Purim and Chanukah). 

In the Days of Mordechai and Esther, in Shushan, the capital, when Haman, the wicked, rose up against them and sought to destroy, to slay, and to exterminate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, on the same day, on the thirteenth of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions But You, in Your abundant mercy, nullified his counsel and frustrated his intention and caused his design to return upon his own head and they hanged him and his sons on the gallows.


Haman the wicked is considered to be a direct descendant of Amalek, since he was named Haman the Agagite, same name as the King of Amalek who fought the People of Israel in the days of King Saul (Samuel I, 15). Amalek was the first people to attack the People of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus, 17,8,18). When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind (Deut. 25:18). Therefore, the Torah says to remember the deed of the Amalekites. Bear in mind that Mordechai the Jew is a descendant of the Tribe of Benjamin and the family of King Saul: Mordechai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, Benjaminite (Esther 2:5). Kish was the father of King Saul. In order to preserve this memory, the Sabbath before Purim is called Shabbat Zachor (Sabbath of remembrance) on which the section: “Remember what Amalek did to you” (Deut. 25:17-19) is read.


Lot (Hebrew: pur)
This is fate: the lottery made by Haman the wicked to determine the date of the decree to annihilate, kill and get rid of all the Jews (Book of Esther 3:7). It is this word (pur) that the name of the holiday—Purim—is derived from.


Bitter enemy of the Jews
One of Haman’s nicknames in the Book of Esther (Book of Esther 3:10).


Grave of Esther and Mordechai 

Tradition has it that Mordechai and Esther are buried in the city of Hamdan, Persia. Over the graves is built an ornamented hall, lit up with many lights. The Jews of Persia had a custom of visiting these graves, in the belief that Esther and Mordechai continue to perform miracles even after their death.


Grager (noisemaker)
A grager is a tool used to make lots of noise. It is customary to use it while reading the Book, at the moment Haman’s name is mentioned. This is the most common from among the customs of hitting Haman the wicked. Other such customs included burning an effigy of Haman the wicked, or stoning such and effigy with rocks and sticks. It may be that eating hamentashen (Haman’s ears) originated in this custom.


Relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place (Book of Esther 4:14)

This is the message sent by Mordechai to Esther when she expressed her fear of going uninvited to King Achashverosh, to appeal for the rescue of the Jews. Some say that this sentence contains the only hint of G-d’s involvement in the plot, since the Book contains no mention of G-d whatsoever. The word makom (place) often serves as one of G-d’s names.


Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor and Shabbat Parah 

The three Sabbaths closest to Purim on which special sections are read. On Shabbat Shekalim, the Shekalim section (Exodus 30:11-16) is read in memory of the contribution of Shekalim (Shekels=currency) to the temple. Shabbat Zachor (Sabbath of remembrance): “Remember what Amalek did to you” (see: Amalek); Shabbat Parah (Parah=cow) named after Purim, on which the Red Cow section (Numbers 19:1-22) is read, to remind us of the commencement of preparations for Passover, when it was necessary to use the ashes of a red cow to purify the impure pilgrims before entering the temple on Passover.


The capital of the Kingdom of Persia and King Achashverosh, where the whole story of the Book of Esther took place.


Shushan Purim
At most locations, Purim is celebrated on 14 Adar. In cities surrounded by walls since the days of Yehoshua (Joshua) Bin-Nun, the appointed time for celebrating the holiday was 15 Adar, since this was the date on which the Jews of Shushan, capital of Persia, celebrated their rescue from the decree of Haman. In our times Shushan Purim is celebrated only in Jerusalem.


A main custom of Purim (see explanation above).


Esther’s Fast
Esther’s Fast falls on 13 Adar in memory of the fast of Queen Esther and the Jews of Shushan the capital, before Esther’s visit to the palace of King Achashverosh, to request that he remove the decree of Haman.

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly [...] Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape:
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. (Book of Esther 4:1, 13-17.


First translation and second translation of the Book of Esther 

There are two translations of the Book of Esther into Aramaic. The first is a mainly literal translation; the second is a translation to which many Midrashim were added. What makes these translations unique is that they add matters missing in it such as mention of the name of G-d which is not mentioned at all in the Book, but appears frequently in the translations. In addition, Esther’s prayer before visiting King Ahashverosh to appeal for her people is included, and an explanation of the reason why Mordechai did not bow down to Haman, the explanation that Mordechai claimed that one must bow down to G-d only and not to human beings. These Midrashic additions serve to strengthen the theological aspect of the Book, in which this aspect is only slightly hinted at. 

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