After a lifetime of not observing Purim, I made hamantaschen twice this year!
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther’s saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, with contemporary overtones I can’t help but notice.
Briefly I’ve paraphrased the story for folks more familiar with American politics than Jewish history:
Steve Bannon [Haman] said to President Trump [King Xerxes], “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from ours. . . it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to ban them. . .”
When Mordecai learned of this plot he said to his cousin Melania [Esther], “Do not think that because you are in the palace you alone will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?”
So Melania said, “I will go to him, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
And Melania went to the President and said, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For though I have hid it from you, I am one of them and you have sold me and my people to be destroyed.”
And because President Trump’s love for Melania was so great he chose to use his power to save an entire people instead of destroy them.
And so it’s been since 500 BCE, Jews and Jewish adjacent folk have been dressing up, drinking wine, and eating hamantaschen (i.e. triangular cookies said to resemble the tri-cornered hat worn by the evil Haman) to celebrate the time a beauty queen risked her life to save an entire people.
When I realized Purim this year fell on dia de noquis, I couldn’t resist throwing an impromptu fete honoring both Esther’s banquet and the Argentinian tradition of eating gnocchi on the 29th of each month, historically the day before payday.
I sent out last minute invitations by text, as the potatoes for the gnocchi went in the oven and the lamb for a fruity ragu went in the slow cooker.
The research regimen was intense: I reread Esther’s story, researched gnocchi recipes, and explored techniques for shaping hamantaschen.
The headcount was spotty; one “no” transformed into an invitation to do the same later in the week at theirs, with hours to spare I hadn’t heard from others, but in the end, we found a minyan of sorts, risking a Wednesday night to try something new.