Once again we’ve come to that time of the year to celebrate and remember an event which occurred thousands of years ago. Yes. But why do we have to celebrate this particular event? I’m sure some people must have asked or reasoned this at some point. So, to put things pretty easy and for any other layperson, let me answer it in two ways.
Short Answer: As Jews, we’re bound by the Halakhah which consists of the laws and traditions of the Israelites. Purim is one of the festivals of the Jewish people.
Long Answer: Purim is celebrated in remembrance of the sweet victory against the evil plot orchestrated by Haman- with the intent to crush and exterminate the Jews living in Persia- but with the divine intervention through Queen Esther- a great miracle occurred and the hunter eventually became the hunted.
Hence, the practice of the celebration of this event has become a tradition, following the decree of Esther and Mordecai. This festival is also referred to as the feast of Queen Esther.
Reading From The Megillah
Purim is usually celebrated from the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of Adar. Beginning from the erev of the first day- the feast is celebrated for two days to coincide with the two days event that saw the killing of thousands of enemies of the Jews- then followed by a day of feasting and merrymaking.
During the celebration of the feast, it is customary to read the Megillah (book of Esther) two times- in the evening and the following morning at the synagogue.
In the days of king Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia, he gave a banquet for all the people who lived in Shushan, both the rich and poor. On the last day of the occasion, he ordered Queen Vashti to appear before his guests and display her beauty to the people and officials, but she refused to come- so he was greatly annoyed.
As a result of this, the queen lost her royal position (and was executed) and then Esther eventually came on board and became the next Queen.
Haman the son of Hammedatha also came onboard later on, and was promoted by the King who placed him higher than any official in the land. Everyone was compelled to bow to him, but after he learned of Modecai’s refusal, Haman was filled with rage. Then he plotted to do away with all the Jews, including the young, old, children and women, on a single day, on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar.
Shouts & Screams As Nobody Wants To Hear The Evil Name
The plans to destroy, massacre and exterminate all Jews in the Persian Empire was foiled by Modecai and Queen Esther who’s his cousin and adopted daughter. Haman had everything all worked out, and even promised to deposit ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury after successfully executing the plans to kill and plunder the belongings of the Jews. But through a brilliant intervention, Esther risks her life to approach the king without a formal invitation, and was able to win the heart of Ahasuerus- a move that helped her to follow her plans to change the situation at hand- and save not only herself but all her people.
On the second day of the wine feast prepared by Esther, the king promised to grant her anything thing she wishes. Then she replied, “if your majesty will do me the favour, and if it pleases your majesty, let my life be granted me as my wish, and my people as my request.”
When the King inquired to know who was the treat, Queen Esther described the adversary and enemy as the evil Haman!
Hence, the custom of blotting out Haman’s name has become common during the celebration of the feast of Purim. So whenever Haman’s name is mentioned throughout the public chanting of the Megillah in the synagogue, the congregation engages in noise-making as nobody wants to hear the pronunciation of the evil name, which occurs 54 times in the book of Esther.
Hanging The Evil Haman At The Stake
The feast of Purim is a time to celebrate and make public mockery of Haman and the enemies of the Jews. It is that time of the year to make the loudest noise in the synagogue around most Jewish communities. Another interesting thing for the lovers of drink- is that the celebration permits the use of alcoholic beverages. And not forgetting the fun of making an image depicting the evil Haman and hanging it on the stake.
By the time I arrived Har Shalom Synagogue for the Erev Purim, we started making the preparation how to build a make-shift image, so the children will have some fun with it. For synagogues that are new into Judaism, it is important to introduce these customary practices and features so there would be deep understanding about the whole essence of Purim.
Trust me, the children didn’t disappoint at all, as they trashed Haman, flogging without stop- and I noticed none of them really cared to ask the reason for the whole experience. They just decided to transfer their angers even as little children, and enjoyed the privilege of flogging an adult image since they cannot obviously do same to a real adult! It was such a great time to see the excitement as everyone celebrated the Purim in style.
Celebrating Purim In Style Across Jewish Nigeria (Gallery)
From western Nigeria, and going across the South eastern regions and the surroundings, then extending into the Northern regions- the feast of Purim was celebrated in style. Our reporters and contacts in some of the synagogues sent us few photos of the celebration from their congregation.
(1) Adat Yisrael Synagogue
The Knesset located close to the popular Festac area is no doubt positioned as gateway to several international Jewish Organization into Nigeria. Last year, the much talked about Franklin-Miles Tour to Jewish Nigeria ended in Lagos with a spectacular Shabbat in Adat Yisrael Synagogue. For Rabbi Wayne Franklin and wife, it was indeed a historic maiden tour for the Americans.
The Synagogue is headed by Rosh Kish Ben Onyia, and the executive members of the management council. You can find out more from their website here.
(2) Beit Yaakov
Chag Purim Sameach from Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, Eastern Nigeria!
(3) Gihon Synagogue
Gihon is one of the oldest synagogues in northern Nigeria, located in Abuja. The Knesset was also visited during the Franklin-Miles tour to Jewish Nigeria. And once again, a female Jewish reporter, Eleanor, from Israel visited the synagogue to witness the celebration of the Purim festival.
How nice to see the reporter who works for News i24 interacting with members of the synagogue during her visit to Abuja, especially with the children. Yo can find more photos from the synagogue facebook page.
(4) Har Shalom Synagogue
Har Shalom Knesset is one of the two South Eastern Synagogues who received Mezuzah from Rabbi Wayne Franklin. As a new Jewish Synagogue- introducing the use of the noise-making ratchet and hanging Haman added more excitement and meaning to this year’s Purim celebrations.
The children, most especially the young girls, wouldn’t stop flogging the image of Haman, even after the statue fell down after many hours of torture! Then one of the little girls, named Hadassah, said to other girls, “Let’s burn it. I think we should burn it and let it die.”
Like seriously? I hope they were joking. I tried to convince them that the statue was already dead, so no need for the fire, but they weren’t convinced, not at all. So much rage for this man Haman! The little Hadassah certainly does have the mind of Queen Esther, no doubt!
(5) Ohr Torah Synagogue
On that day, Eben Cohen led a 7-man team to Ohr Torah Synagogue in the spirit and excitement of the Purim celebration. By the time we got there in the afternoon, service for the day was yet to begin. So we helped set things up and performed the mitzvah of reading the Megillah which was read by Eben Cohen in front of the synagogue.
The energy and vibrancy shown by those in attendance, both young, old and the children, is something I’d hardly forget. Speaking about the evil name of Haman- of course, nobody wants to hear his name as the story from the book of Esther was read.
Six Things Learnt From The Purim Celebration
During the Purim festival there are specific obligations expected, as well as the important lessons from the Purim story.
- On top of the list is the mitzvah of listening to the reading of the Megillah in the synagogue. This is done twice during the feast.
- It is customary to send food gifts to friends during the festival.
- Another important obligation during Purim is the giving of charity to the poor.
- The fast of Esther, observed a day before Purim, is in commemoration of the fasting of Queen Esther in the book of Esther 4: 16
- The symbolic food used in celebrating Purim, known as Hamantaschen, actually means Haman’s ear.
- According chabad.org, the custom of wearing costumes on Purim is an allusion to the nature of Purim miracle, where the details of the story are really hidden within natural events
See You Next Purim, And Let’s Have Some Fun Again!
Baruck Hashem for a successful and memorable feast of Purim. We look forward to the next of its kind which will be coming up by March 9th, 2020 (Jewish Year of 5780).
How amazing to see all the different types, designs and colors of masks in display across some synagogues in Jewish Nigeria. We are hoping for more fun in the coming Purim next year. How about a Purim-mask competition, where the best mask photo sent to “Jewish Nigeria Blog” will be featured here in the blog and could also receive some gifts from the Blog Management.
That’s right, absolutely! Let’s have that fun over and over again!
Chag Purim Sameach!
Upcoming Stories on Jewish Nigeria Blog:
- Inauguration of Beit Yaakov Haknesset in Agulu, Anambra State
- The Conservative Jews of Jewish Nigeria
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