The Book of Esther reflects a number of important features of the Persian culture, which are also found elsewhere in the Bible, above all in the book of Daniel. These features, satirized in the Book of Esther, include a mock representation of Persian rites of gluttony, drinking, exuberant public eroticism, abnormal pomp and display of richness, and bowing to idols or men.
Other Versions of the Purim Story
There are different versions of the story of Esther in addition to the one that appears in the Hebrew Bible. The Greek versions contain the name of God, which is absent in the biblical story. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century of the Common Era, paraphrases the story of Esther in The Antiquities of the Jews.
The holiday of Purim is one of the Jewish tradition's most beloved communal celebrations. By the second century CE, Purim played such a significant role in the Jewish calendar that an entire tractate of the Mishnah (the earliest compiled rabbinic legal work), called Megillah, was based on the discussion of Purim's proper observance.
According to local legend, this building
in Iran is home to the tombs of Mordechai and Esther
A festive meal, packages of food and other small treats offered to friends and family (mishloach manot), and gifts to the poor (matanot la'evyonim) as cited in Esther 9:22 remain key components of traditional celebrations until today. Purim is a holiday where celebrants are obligated to be happy--and to drink until they are unable to tell the difference between Mordecai and Haman (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 7b). The reading of the Book of Esther from an actual scroll, often an object of special decoration and care, is performed with distinctive cantillation on both the evening and morning of Purim. These readings include numerous ancient customs, among which are jeering and making noise each time the villain Haman's name is mentioned, as well as reciting the names of Haman's ten sons in one breath.
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