Occupation: College Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/19/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hebrew
The following is a conversation with AJ that describes her interpretation and knowledge of the Story of Esther; the story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim.
AJ: So basically, the second in command to the King, named Haman, made a decree that everyone needed to bow down to him, but this one guy named Mordecai didn’t want to bow down to him because you’re really not allowed to bow down to anyone that’s not God. So, Haman then hated all the Jews. So, he made a decree for a lottery, which picked a day that would essentially be “the purge” for killing Jews; you’d have the whole day to kill Jews and you wouldn’t get in trouble. So, the day he chose “the purge” for was on the 13th of Adar, which falls tomorrow (March 20th), I think, and it was called Purim.
So, while this is happening, the King was having a three-day festival party, and he told his wife to come so he could show her off or whatever. But she didn’t come and just had her own party with the girls, and it was so disrespectful to the King that he got rid of her. So, then he held a beauty pageant for a new wife, and he recruited every girl from the city. So basically, Mordecai, from earlier, had a niece named Esther, and they were trying to hide her, but the King’s men found her. When she went to the beauty pageant, the King liked her the most and she was the most beautiful, so she became Queen. Mordecai then told Esther that this [happening] was a sign that she needed to use her position as Queen to try and convince the King that he shouldn’t kill the Jews with the purge system that Haman created. And then basically Esther was really scared because you can’t approach the King, even if you’re the Queen, without him calling [upon] you or using his power on you. So that’s why the Jews fasted for three days, to make sure nothing would happen to her when she went to the King. They fasted because it was custom that you were supposed to fast if you really wanted something to happen […]; fasting helps give you luck. So, she went to the King and asked for a tea party to talk about Haman. So, Esther had the party twice, but couldn’t find her words until the third time when she told the King that Haman was trying to kill her people, the Jews. The King then was like, “What, oh my gosh!” […] there are more details, but anyway, the King sentences Haman and all his sons and they were hung, but only after Haman carried Mordecai on a horse to get his full embarrassment before his death. The lottery decree was able to be reversed because of the King’s power and then the Jew’s were saved because of Esther.
EK: So, then what do you, and other Jews, do to celebrate for Purim?
AJ: Um, okay, so we fast for a day, which is tomorrow (March 20th), the same as the 13th of Adar, and then we read this story at night before we have a big feast. Also, it’s a custom to give each other food baskets to friends and family during this time.
EK: Interesting, so what does this story mean to you, as someone who is Jewish?
AJ: Basically, I know it because through being Jewish and it’s just a story that’s identifiable to all Jewish people because everyone in the religion celebrates the holiday, so it just brings us all together and we get food baskets in the process, haha.
It is very clear that the Jewish religion places a lot of emphasis on the stories of their religion and the sacredness of their celebrations. These origins seem to date back thousands of years, as well as the worship during the sacred holiday. During Purim, I watched AJ strictly abide by the rules of fasting throughout the day; obviously this is a holiday that Jews take very seriously. As this story is a part of their culture and religion, it seems that many Jews know it by heart. When AJ was sharing the story, she did not have to think twice about many of the details, like it was common practice for her to recite.