Purim: a Story of Courage and Faith
Jump to Hamantaschen Cookie Recipe
Purim, the most madcap of all the Judaic holidays, is just around the corner. This year is will be celebrated on the 28th of February. The word Purim, prounced poor-eem, simply means lots, as in the casting of lots. It is named as such because the process of casting lots is essential to the story of how the Lord moved to save His people from total annihilation.
The Purim story can be found in the Book of Esther. Even though God is not mentioned by name anywhere in this book (the only case of this in the Bible), God’s hand is felt through the heroine, Esther.
Set in the ancient Persian Empire, the Book of Esther recounts an amazingly vicious attempt by Haman to wipe out the entire population of Jewish people from the known world. It depicts an unequivocal struggle between evil and righteousness. Haman is the king’s number one advisor. He reveals his evil scheme to kill all the Jewish people throughout the empire, simply because Mordechai, the uncle of Esther, refuses to bow down to him. He casts lots (Purim) to determine when he should execute his evil plan.
Esther, who has been made queen, is implored by Mordechai to speak to the king. She is hesitant because she is not permitted to speak with the king without permission and she has been hiding that she is a Jew. However, she is brave and through her bravery and God’s guiding hand, is able to save the Jewish people. It is in Esther that we learn about a different type of courage: being able to have trust and faith in God. She knew where to go for the courage she need; she went to God through fasting and prayer. Placing her life in God’s hands, she let Him decide the outcome for her and her people.
Today Purim is absolutely the most joyous of all the celebrations in the Judaic tradition. We celebrate Purim today because while not prescribed directly by God, it was by Esther, who was God’s agent on Earth. God is the secret agent working behind the scenes, through His providence, to provide everything that is needed to save the Jews from destruction.
To honor Purim the Book of Esther is read (or re-read for many of you!), it is an easy and enjoyable read -- and of course very worthwhile. Esther is usually read in public with audience participation. During the reading the audience spins or shakes their graggers, traditional noisemakers, when the name Haman is spoken to blot out his name. It is a lot of fun and a great activity for Sunday School/Hebrew School/Bible Study sessions.
The other primary tradition is to dress in costume. This is to hide our outer appearance like Esther hid her Jewishness from the king in the beginning and God is “hiding” from us throughout the Book of Esther. There are also raucous parties with people in costume. And of course, there are the Hamentaschen (Yiddish for Hamen’s Pockets) or Oznai Haman (Hebrew for Hamen’s Ears) cookies. These are a filled shortbread cookie shaped into triangles. The recipe is below!
Mama Leah’s Hamentaschen
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup corn oil 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs filling of your choice
3 tablespoons orange juice or pineapple juice
3 cups flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water( optional)
In a large bowl of an electric mixer beat sugar and oil until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is very light and frothy, then beat in juice. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder and gradually beat into the liquid mixture until you have a soft and workable dough. Remove to lightly floured surface knead into a ball.
Preheat oven to 375 - you can brush finished hamantaschen with the egg and water mixture for more color
You don’t need to prepare your own fillings for delicious Hamantaschen. Here are some easy, yummy ideas.
Fruit preserves -- Raspberry or Apricot work particularly well
Solo Poppy Seed Cake and Pastry Filling