CHAPTER FOUR

PURIM THE FESTIVAL OF LOTS

 

1  BACKGROUND

 

Purim, or the Festival of Lots, is a joyous Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar.  It commemorates the survival of the Persian Jews who in the 5th century B.C.E were marked for death by their rulers.

 

The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther in the Bible. The Book of Esther was written during the period from 400 to 200 B.C.E and deals with the theme of Jewish survival in the face of hardship. An additional 107 verses were written and inserted into various points in the story, but they do not appear in the Biblical book. These verses written in approximately 100 B.C.E are now part of a collection of religious writings called the Apocrypha. Their sense of devotion and prayer stands in contrast to the Book of Esther, which omits religious references.

 

The ritual observance of Purim begins with a day of fasting referred to as Ta’anit Esther (the Fast of Esther) on Adar 13, the day preceding the actual holiday. On the day of Purim the Book of Esther is read during synagogue services. Whenever the villain Haman is mentioned in the story, the congregation, especially the children, makes a lot of noise to blot out his name.  At Purim the Jewish people are also commanded to send gifts of food to their friends and neighbours. This is referred to as mishloach manot in Hebrew. Furthermore, donations are given to the poor. The eating of three-cornered pastries called hamentaschen (Haman’s ears) is a custom associated with this holiday. Purim plays, which became popular during the 17th century, contribute to the carnival atmosphere especially enjoyed by the children who dress up in costumes.

 

The day after Purim is called "Shushan Purim." According to the Book of Esther, the fight against the anti-semites in the capital city of Shushan took a day longer than in the rural areas. Therefore, the Jews in Shushan didn't get to rest and celebrate until a day later. In commemoration of this, the Book of Esther says that Purim is celebrated a day later in walled cities, on the day now known as "Shushan Purim." The rabbis decided that a "walled city" in this case means a city that had walls (if they are still standing or not) at the time of Joshua (Moses's successor). Thus, today Jerusalem celebrates Purim on Shushan Purim.

 

THE STORY OF PURIM

 

Purim commemorates events that took place 2,500 years ago just after King Ahasuerus consolidated his rule over the Persian Empire. According to Megillat Esther, which is Hebrew for the Scroll of Esther, Ahasuerus’s empire stretched from Hodu to Kush, which on today’s map, would mean from India to Ethiopia.

 

In the city of Shushan, Vashti, the Queen of Persia, refused to obey the order of the King of Persia, Ahasuerus, to appear before his guests. Her refusal angered the King and he no longer accepted her as his queen. The King then searched the country for a new queen. From among hundreds of applicants, Esther, cousin of Mordechai the Jew, was chosen. Mordechai told Esther not to reveal her Jewish identity.

 

Soon after Esther became queen, Mordechai overheard an assassination plot against the King. He reported the conversation to the palace, and the two perpetrators, Bigthan and Theresh, were apprehended and killed.  The incident was recorded in the king’s chronicles, and, although Mordechai saved the king’s life, his efforts went unrewarded and were quickly forgotten.

 

Meanwhile, Haman was appointed as the King’s new Prime Minister. Haman quickly passed an edict that all must bow before him. Mordechai incurred the wrath of Haman by refusing to bow. After complaining to his wicked wife, Zeresh, Haman decided to take revenge on Mordechai and convinced King Ahasuerus to issue an edict calling for the destruction of all the Jews in the land. Lots were cast and a day was chosen for the annihilation of the Jews. That day was the 14th of Adar, the day today celebrated as Purim.

 

Mordechai pleaded with Esther to save the Jewish people by talking to the King. After some initial reluctance, Esther agreed, and in preparation, she and her people fasted and prayed for three days requesting divine assistance.

 

Esther decided to visit the king uninvited, an act normally punishable by death, and invited the King and Haman to a special banquet. At the banquet she eluded Ahasuerus‘s questions and invited the King and Haman to a second banquet.

 

Haman was elated that he was so honoured, and hurried home to tell his wife. On his way, he bumped into Mordechai. Impatient Haman couldn’t wait for the day of the planned massacre, and on the advice of his wife, he erected huge gallows in his yard. He rushed back to request the king’s permission to hang Mordechai the following morning.

 

That same night, King Ahasuerus had trouble sleeping. To pass the time, he asked that his book of chronicles be read out loud. The chapter read to him was about the time Mordechai revealed an assassination plot against him. He was told that Mordechai had never been rewarded. When Haman arrived at the palace, he was asked to come to the King who asked him how to reward such a man.

 

Haman, who assumed the King wanted to honour him, advised the King that the lucky one should be adorned in royal robes and crown, paraded through the streets on the King’s horse, and proclaimed as the King’s    most honoured subject. Liking Haman’s suggestion, the King informed Haman that the man to be honoured in this way was Mordechai. Haman had to carry out the orders and led Mordechai through the streets of Shushan.

 

After this humiliation, Haman attended Esther’s second banquet. It was there that Esther revealed her Jewish identity and exposed Haman as the evil plotter against her people. In anger the King ordered Haman

executed. However, the King was unable to rescind Haman’s decree against his Jewish subjects since it already had the king’s seal. Instead, he allowed the Jews to arm themselves and fight.

 

So, on the thirteenth of Adar, the Jews defeated their enemies in the provinces, and on the thirteenth and fourteenth of Adar, the Jews defeated their enemies in Shushan and in the other cities.

 

And so today Jews celebrate the survival of their people with great joy and merriment.

 

It is important that you read the introduction in order to put the activities that follow in their correct framework.

 

 

2  LEXICAL ITEMS

 

Ahasuerus, Esther, Haman,  Mordechai, Vashti.

hamantaschen (Haman’s ears), Scroll of Esther, costume, masks and crowns.

 

Ideas for different levels

Grade 4:  Purim word search. Word search together with word bank. Have the pupils divide the words into 2 groups – people and other words.  Have the pupils use the words in sentences

Grade 5:  Purim word search. Use this word search without word bank - find words related to Purim and use them in sentences.

Grade 5/6:  Feast of Lots word search. Use this larger word search with or without word bank. Have the pupils divide the words into 2 groups – people and other words. Write clues for each of the people e.g. “My name is ___________ and I am the wicked man who wanted to kill all the Jews in the kingdom.”

 

 Activity               Purim Word Search

 

In the word search below you have words going in all directions:

                                                         There are 5 people and 5 words all  

                                                         related to the title.

 

                       

PURIM

 

 

M A C P M O X X C N

O U H A R V M O K W

R A S A I Q S I I O

D K D C S T U W N L

E V P V U U H E G C

C M U M J Y E S E H

H R E H T S E R A N

A H A M A N C M U V

I T U I B K R G P S

 

 

 

 

Word bank : AHASUERUS, CLOWN, COSTUME, ESTHER, HAMAN,  KING, MASK, MORDECHAI, QUEEN, VASHTI.

 

 

 

 Arrange the words into 2 groups:

 

                      PEOPLE

OTHER WORDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity     Feast of Lots Word Search

 

In the word search below you have words going in all directions:

                                                         There are 15 words all related to  

                                                          the title.       

 

                       

THE FEAST OF LOTS

 

 

E P F P D U K O G D N I B O N

C G A Q E G O B N O T Z N E S

V M M H M R K X I X C Y E N E

A S X A C V S S Z M A U E I M

S K K C E E E I T I Q X N L U

H S D S Y M D F A R A D A R T

T L Z B A S U R E U S A H A S

I F U K C M N T O P K X N R O

Y Y E L S A K A E M W I Q P C

A R O V H R E S T H E R N F F

S W L S N A M A H P G W J G L

N E U Z Q T X B Z I P X Y G P

V H P D P C I R C L X K D C U

S P M O R D E C H A I T X Q L

 

 

Word bank : ADAR, AHASUERUS, CLOWN, COSTUMES, ESTHER, HAMAN,  KING, MASKS, MORDECHAI, NOISEMAKERS, PERSIA, PURIM, QUEEN, SHUSHAN, VASHTI.

 

 

 

3  SONGS

A wicked, wicked man

 

O once there was a wicked, wicked man

And Haman was his name, sir

He would have murdered all the Jews

Though they were not to blame, sir

Oh, today we’ll merry merry be (x3)               

And nosh some hamentaschen

                                                                             

                 And Esther was the lovely queen

                 Of King Ahashverosh                        

When Haman said he’d kill us all
Oh my how he did scare us

                Oh, today we’ll merry merry be (x3)     
                And nosh some hamentaschen           

But Mordechai her cousin bold                         

Said  What a dreadful chutzpa!                     

If guns were but invented now

This Haman I would shoot, sir.”

 Oh, today we’ll merry merry be (x3)              

And nosh some hamentaschen                           

 

The guest of honor he shall be

This clever Mr. Smarty
And high above us he shall swing

At a little hanging party

Oh, today we’ll merry merry be (x3)               
And nosh some hamentaschen

 

Of all his cruel and unkind ways

This little joke did cure him
And don’t forget we owe him thanks

For this jolly feast of Purim.

         Oh, today we’ll merry merry be (x3)
         And nosh some hamentaschen

 

CHAG PURIM  (Begin in Hebrew, then go into English)

 

Chag purim, chag purim, chag gadol lay'hudim

Masechot, ra'ashanim, shirim v'rikudim.

 

Hava narisha rash, rash, rash,

Hava narisha rash, rash, rash,

 

Purim's here, Purim's here,

It's a holiday so dear

Mask and song, bring along,

Groggers loud and clear.

 

Here go the groggers, rash, rash, rash,

Here go the groggers, rash, rash, rash,

Here go the groggers, rash, rash, rash,

Purim time is here.

 

 

4  ACTIVITIES

 

Title: The clown.

Level: Grade 3.

Materials: Pictures and flashcards of the lexical items (clown, head, shirt, pants, hat, eyes, nose, mouth), and outline of a clown (optional).

Aims:

-to introduce and/or revise lexical items connected to the festival.

-to practise listening skills.

-to practise following directions given in English.

-to revise the colours.

Description:

Begin the lesson by asking the pupils what they know about the festival. Tell them that you like to dress up as a clown. Use pictures and flashcards to talk about the clown. Have pupils draw an outline of a clown or provide them with an outline.

Teacher calls one of the lexical items (e.g. hat) and the pupils have to draw the hat in the correct place. Teacher continues calling the items until each pupil has a complete picture of a clown.

At this point revise the colours by having the pupils colour in their clown according to your directions (e.g. colour the hat blue.)

Optional: have the pupils label the different parts of the clown.

The completed clowns can be used to make a display and then placed in the pupil’s portfolios.

 

Title:  Who’s who?

Level: Grade 4.

Materials:  Who’s who work sheet of coded words.

Aims:

 -to introduce and/or revise figures and places connected to the festival.

 -to practise the order of the alphabet.

 -to reinforce punctuation rule that all names have capital letters.

Description:

Begin the lesson by asking the pupils to help you make a list of who’s who in the Purim story. Talk a little about the events of the story.

Erase the blackboard and give the pupils the activity sheet to solve. Help them discover the code a=1, b=2, c=3,…….y=25, z=26. If you want your pupils to have a copy of the code there is one on page 51. Tell them to use small letters and only use capital letters for the first letter of a name. I always use my own name or one of the students’ as an example on the

blackboard.

 

Who’s who?

 

Here is a list of people involved in the Purim story. Find out who they are by cracking the code. Hint: my beginning is one and my end is twenty-six. My eyes are five and my mouth is thirteen.

 

__  __  __ __ __

 8    1   13  1  14

__  __  __ __ __ ­__

 5   19  20  8   5  18

__  __  __ __ __ __

22   1   19  8  20  9

 

__  __  __ __ __ __  __  __ __

 1    8   1   19 21  5   18  21 19

 

__  __  __ __ __  __  __  __ __

13  15  18  4   5    3    8    1   9

 

__  __  __ __ __ __

26   5   18  5  19  8

 

 

 

Title: Words, words, words.

Level: Grades 5/6.

Materials:  Pen and paper, example. 

Aims:

-to provide an opportunity for pupils to revise lexical items connected to animals, foods, professions, general vocabulary.

-to practise following directions given in English.

Description:

Begin the lesson by asking the pupils what they know about the festival. On the blackboard list characters related to the festival. Hand out an example sheet or do one together on the blackboard.

Blank example which can be filled in together on blackboard.

 

 

ANIMAL

FOOD

COSTUME

H

 

A

 

M

 

A

 

N

 

 

 

 

Completed example.

 

 

ANIMAL

FOOD

COSTUME

H

 

A

 

M

 

A

 

N

horse

 

anteater

 

mouse

 

antelope

 

nightingale

honey

 

apple

 

meat

 

avocado

 

nuts

Hercules

 

Aladdin

 

Mickey Mouse

 

astronaut

 

nurse

Have the pupils do the same for Esther, Mordechai, Vashti, Ahasuerus.

Place the completed activities in their portfolio.

Optional follow-up: Have the pupils choose one of the characters of the story and write 2-3 sentences about him/her.

 

Title: Punctuating the Purim story.

Level: Grades 5/6.

Materials: Story activity. Flashcards of character names.

Aims:

-to review the story of Purim.

-to reinforce and revise lexical items connected to the festival.

-to practise using 3 basic punctuation rules (Every sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop. All names have a capital letter.)

Description:

Begin the lesson by brainstorming for ideas associated with the festival. Elicit the story from the pupils. During the brainstorming make sure that you develop a list of the names of people associated with the story. (It is a good idea to have these as flashcards and to put them on the blackboard as pupils mention them.)

Relate to the list of names and point out that they all start with a capital letter. Ask the pupils when else do you use capital letters. State the rule that in English every sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

Explain activity and allow pupils to do the punctuation exercise.

After correcting the exercise have the pupils copy the text with correct punctuation and put it in their portfolio.

 

Correction:

 

Many years ago there was a king of Persia. His name was Ahasuerus. He invited people to a party. He called to his wife Vashti. She didn’t want to come. The king was angry. He chose a new queen. The new queen was Esther. She was beautiful and good. Haman was a bad man. He wanted to kill all the Jews. Mordechai told Esther and she told the king. King Ahasuerus punished Haman.

 

 

 

 

Activity

 

 

Read the following carefully. There are no full stops or capital letters. Please put in full stops and capital letters.

 

 

THE STORY OF PURIM.

 

 

many years ago there was a king of persia his name was ahasuerus he invited people to a party he called to his wife vashti she didn’t want to come the king was angry he chose a new queen the new queen was esther she was beautiful and good haman was a bad man he wanted to kill all the jews mordechai told esther and she told the king king ahasuerus punished haman

 

 

 

Title: Presenting the Purim story.

Level: Grade 6.

Materials:  Story parts. Story activity.

Aims:

-to review the story of Purim.

-to reinforce and revise lexical items connected to the festival.

-to practise reading out aloud.

Description:

Begin the lesson by brainstorming for ideas associated with the festival. Elicit lexical items and ideas from the pupils and put on blackboard. It is suggested that the blackboard be divided into two – one section for general vocabulary and one section for events of the story.

Hand out one sentence or part to each student. Allow a few minutes for practise and checking for understanding.

Have pupils read out the parts in order. Where necessary provide vocabulary as the pupils present their parts.

Some ideas for a portfolio assignment to follow this activity:

Make a list of the people in the story. Write 1-3 sentences about one of the people.

Dictation exercise.  Dictate the parts title, 8.1, 8.2 and 8.3.

Dictate the following paragraph beginning

"On Purim we dress up. This year I am __________ ".

Have pupils complete the paragraph by describing their costume.

THE STORY:

1.1 King Ahasuerus ruled over a huge Empire.

1.2 To celebrate the growth of his Empire from Hodu to Kush the King gave a big party.

1.3. Queen Vashti refuses the king's request to appear at the celebration and display her beauty for the assembled guests.

1.4. The king's advisors counsel that Vashti be replaced with a new queen.

2.1 A Jewish girl, Esther, the niece of Mordechai, is brought to the capital of Persia.

2.2. Mordechai tells Esther to hide the fact that she is Jewish.

2.3. Esther is chosen to be the queen.

2.4. Mordechai learns of a plot to kill the king. Mordechai tells Esther, Esther tells the king, and the plotters are hanged.

3.1. King Ahasuerus makes Haman his Prime Minister.

3.2. Haman wants everybody to bow to him, but Mordechai refuses. Jews do not bow to others.

3.3 Haman is very angry and asks King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews of Persia.

3.4. King Ahasuerus agrees to destroy the Jews.

3.5. The 13th of Adar is chosen as the date to destroy all the Jews.

4.1. Mordechai tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of public mourning.

4.2. Mordechai asks Esther to speak to the king and save her people.

4.3. Esther tells Mordechai to ask the Jews to fast and pray for three days.

5.1. Esther goes to the king and invites him and Haman to join her at a banquet.

5.2. On his way home from the banquet, Haman sees Mordechai who once again refuses to bow. He is very angry and when Zeresh, Haman's wife, suggests that Mordechai be hung, the gallows are prepared.

6.1. That same night the king can't sleep and asks to hear the royal chronicles.

6.2. For the first time, the king learns that Mordechai had saved him and had not been rewarded.

6.3. That same night, Haman comes to see the king about hanging Mordechai.

6.4. Haman thinks that the King wants to reward him and tells him to honour the person by dressing him in royal garments, putting him on a royal horse and  leading him through the streets of Shushan.

6.5 The King orders Haman to honour Mordechai in this way.

7.1. Haman goes to the second banquet where Esther reveals her identity and tells the King that she and her people are about to be destroyed.

7.2. Esther points to Haman and says he is her enemy.

7.3. The king has Haman hung on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordechai.

 

 

 

EXTRA PARTS

 

Title  The Story of Purim

8.1 Adar 13th is a fast day. It is called “the fast of Esther.”

8.2 In synagogue the book of Esther is read.

8.3 We dress up.

8.4 We send mishoach manot.

 

 

 

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