Today was Ta’anit Esther, which is the fast of Esther. We read about it in Esther chapter 4. It commemorates the fasting of the Jewish people in response to the events which occurred during their exile in the Persian empire.
Tomorrow is Purim. Perhaps you are not very familiar with this holiday. If falls each year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Here are some ways the holiday is celebrated today, which I shared on this blog a few years ago:
Reading the Megillah. The Tenach is divided into three sections. The first part is the Torah. The second part is the Nevi’im (Prophets) and the third part is the Ketuvim (Writings). Tenach is an acronym for those three parts. The book of Esther is part of the Writings. In Hebrew, the book is called Megillat Esther (Scroll of Esther). Megillah is the Hebrew word for scroll.
It is mandated that all men, women and children should hear the reading of the book of Esther (Megillat Esther) on the evening and morning of the 14th of Adar. It is traditional that during this reading, whenever the name Haman is read, there is loud booing and noisemakers (groggers) and shaken.
Sending food to friends. It is mandated in Esther 9:22 that on Purim to show our joy and thankfulness, we should send gifts to one another and to the poor. This custom became knows as mishloach manot (“sending portions”).
Common foods. Hamentaschen, which I mentioned in a previous post, are the common pastries made for Purim. Some other customs are challah with extra-long braids, to represent the ropes set up by Haman to kill Mordechai, but were used on Haman; as well as sweet and sour dishes together, to remind us of the initial sadness and ultimate joy this holiday represents.
Masquerading. Finally, it is common to dress up in costumes and celebrate. This was introduced by the Italian Jews at the end of the 15th century. Today, both children and adults dress us in costumes. It is a fun time for all.
Perhaps you were not very familiar with the holiday of Purim. Perhaps you knew the story but did not realize that it is celebrated today. Pray about how you can incorporate this important holiday into your own life.