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« The Joyous Holiday of Purim »

Today marked the Jewish Holiday of Purim, a joyous holiday which commemorates the rescue of Jews from genocide in ancient Persia.

The story of Purim is told in the Old Testament's Book of Esther. The villain of the story is Haman, an anti-Semite, who convinces King Ahasuerus to commit genocide against the Jews. Haman's plot was foiled by Queen Esther, who courageously disclosed her Jewish ancestry to her husband, in the hope of saving her race.  

Following Esther's disclosure, Ahasuerus reversed Haman's decree and Haman (along with his ten sons) were hang on the gallows for their attempted crimes. It is less than a little ironic that in modern times, 10 of Hitler's top associates were condemned to hanging for war crimes committed during the Holocaust.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Antar, based on the Jewish calendar.  This is the day that Haman planned to kill the Jews. The holdiay started this year on March 15th at sundown.

Purim is preceded by a minor fast day, known as the Fast of Esther, which occurred this year on Thursday, March 13th. The fast signifies Esther's request to the Jews to fast and pray in advance of her appeal to the King.

The primary commandment of Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther, also know as the MegillahIt is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service -- so as to "blot out the name of Haman."

The holiday is also marked by food, excess drink, charity and the giving of gift baskets (known as shalach manos, or the sending out of portions.)  Pageants, plays and dressing up likewise occur to the delight of young and old in Jewish communites around the world.

And then, of course, there is the hamantashen. We can't forget the hamantashen! These triangular shaped cookies are typically filled with fruit, poppy seed or chocolate filling. The shape of the cookie is said to represent the triangle-shaped hat that Haman wore. Alternatively, the cookies are said to represent Queen Esther's strength and the founders of Judaism: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Whatever the case, they are delicious and nearly synonymous with Purim.

I was hoping to share the recipe with you, but I was anything but impressed with the cookie dough I used -- which was dry and broke easily. I will need to go back to the drawing board and find a more suitable dough for next year. In the meantime, if anyone has a recipe they would like to pass on, please do.

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