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Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated by the reading of the Scroll of Esther, known in Hebrew as the Megillat Esther, which commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

Eat, Drink and Be Holy!

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)

And they gained relief on the fourteenth, making it a day of feasting and gladness. (Esther 9:17)

Mordecai instructed them to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:22)

Significance of Purim: Remembering the defeat of a plot to exterminate the Jews
Observances: Public reading of the Book of Esther while "blotting out" the villain's name
Length: 1 day
Customs: Costume parties; drinking; eating fruit-filled triangular cookies (hamentashen)

The story of Purim is told in the Biblical Book of Esther. A beautiful young Jewish woman named Esther lived in Persia; her cousin Mordechai, raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther his queen. The king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The villain of the story, Haman, hated Mordechai because Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews. Mordechai persuades Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. She told him of Haman's plot against her people; the king decreed that Jewish people should be saved, and Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordechai.

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