A Purim Vocabulary


queen esther“The whole megillah.” When my daughters come up with words I don’t recognize, my first resource is Urban Dictionary. Very informative. And yep, “whole megillah” is there, one of the many Yiddish or Hebrew inspired phrases that have become bonafide street English. The whole megillah means “something long, complex, and possibly tedious,” as in when Jews read the Megillah Esther (Scroll of Esther) from beginning to end, all ten chapters, with breaks for hooting and hollering, each Purim. And yes, AARC is going to read the whole megillah this year….well almost. Because of the age-old “tedium” problem, there are many abridged, English language, family-friendlier, megillot to choose from. But you can still expect all ten chapters.

“Shpiel.”I won’t even go into the Urban Dictionary definition; shpiel is simply a play or story. It’s traditional for congregations to stage and enjoy purimshpiels (Purim Plays) that riff on characters and themes from the Scroll of Esther. This year, we will intersperse our shpiel with our megillah reading. Just for fun….and to break up the tedium.

“Hamantaschen.” Those triangular pastries intended to remind us of the villain Haman’s hat. The whole community, especially the kids, is invited to Carol Lessure’s home to bake hamantaschen Saturday afternoon, February 28, 2015 from 3:00ish – 6:00ish.  She is happy to have you drop in for part or stay for a potluck dinner (Havdalah too) after cookie baking is done.  Bring your rolling pin, cookie sheet and a snack, drink or side dish to share.

And the feast or Seudah, in Hebrew. There are four feasts in the Megillah Esther, but we’ll be having only one. We need to know how much to order, so please RSVP using this link.

When’s it all happening? March 1, 11:30-2 at the JCC, of course.

Oh, that picture at the top was just to get your attention. I used it for a cover of Bridges Journal in 1993, with this description: This image is of Queen Esther giving birth to Kurush (Cyrus the Great), her son by Shah Ardashir (Ahasuerus). The painting, by an unknown artist, is an illustration from a late seventeenth century edition of an epic poem, Ardashir Ndma (The Ahasuerus Book), written in 1332 by Jewish-Persian poet Maulana Shahin. Iranian Jews often used the Hebrew alphabet even while writing in the Persian language as a way of preserving their religious and national heritage. They shared the cultural tastes of their Muslim neighbors, using Persian literary and artistic styles in setting to verse and illustrating some well-known Jewish themes, including even the Torah. Ardashir Ndma is the story of the Book of Esther and continues with Esther and Ahasueras’ life together, with embellishments from Jewish and Muslim legends, Talmudic and Midrashic references, and Persian fairy tales. The whole megillah plus more!