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This past weekend was the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates a time in Jewish history when our enemies almost annihilated us, but we prevailed. Many of you are probably familiar with the Biblical Book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim. Esther, a Jewish woman, becomes Queen of Persia, but keeps her nationality hidden from the king. Haman, the king’s second-in-command, wants to destroy the entire Jewish people because he hates Mordechai, Esther’s uncle. At just the right moment, Esther reveals her Jewish identity to the king, who then has Haman executed and Mordechai is promoted in his place. The Jews rejoice and proclaim a new holiday.
Purim is celebrated by listening to the Book of Esther read out loud from a kosher scroll. These scrolls are hand-written with quill on parchment, just as they’ve been written for centuries. This is often referred to as “The Megilla Reading” because Megilla is the Hebrew word for “scroll.” Other observances include giving charity, having a festive meal, and giving gifts of food. It’s customary to dress up in costumes for the holiday as well. Many people eat hamentashen for the holiday. These are jam-filled triangular cookies said to be in the shape of Haman’s hat.
While the Mitzvah (commandment) can be fulfilled by giving a gift of 2 kinds of food to one person, it’s become customary to give to all your friends. There were friends in the neighborhood we wanted to give to, and my children wanted to give to some of their classmates and most of their teachers as well. This can get complicated and expensive, so we try to keep it simple.
Hamentashen are traditionally a part of the gift baskets, but the truth is that many people get tired of eating so many of them. We usually make chocolate chip cookies to give out instead. They’re less work to make and much more appreciated. We’ve been giving out popcorn before we started BTD, and we’ve continued to do so. It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to make, and people enjoy receiving it. Of course my kids will eat the leftovers, but Purim only comes once a year and I don’t worry so much about keeping things 100% compliant for this holiday. I need to keep a wheat-free house, but I don’t get sick from touching popcorn. So, rather than tons of candy and store-bought hamentashen, we give out pretty bags with mini chocolate chip cookies and popcorn.
We did make some hamentashen for ourselves. I’d intended to make a batch with rice flour so I could eat a couple, but forgot to buy enough rice flour. The kids made one batch of hamentashen with spelt flour; some filled with chocolate chips and some filled with apricot jam. Since I couldn’t eat the spelt cookies, I put some butter and jam on a rice cake and baked that. It wasn’t hamentashen shaped, but it had all the buttery goodness and baked jam flavor, it was totally compliant for me, and I wasn’t tempted to overeat because I only made one.
After all my careful planning for our own Purim goodies, of course we received many gift bags from our friends as well. Most of these contained things like corn syrup, wheat flour, and artificial colors. Leah brought a lot of candy to school with her the day after Purim, to share with her classmates. Some is in a bag destined for a food pantry. And some we kept, to be doled out slowly over the next few weeks so nobody gets sick from eating too much junk.
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