Purim ( Hebrew : פורים Pûrîm " lots ", from Akkadian puru ) is a joyous Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of all the Jews at the time who were living under the authority of the Persian Empire , resulting from the Babylonian captivity (after Persia had conquered Babylonia ), from Haman 's plot to exterminate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther . It is characterized by public recitation of the Book of Esther, giving mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal (Esther 9:22); other customs include drinking alcohol , wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar . (In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, including Jerusalem , Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, known as Shushan Purim ). As with all Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous secular day.
The events leading up to Purim were recorded in the Book of Esther , which became the last of the 24 books of the Tanakh to be canonized by the Great Assembly . The Book of Esther records a series of seemingly unrelated events which took place over a nine-year period during the reign of King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes) . These events, when seen as a whole, reveal that the "coincidences" are really evidence of Divine intervention operating behind the scenes. This interpretation is developed and explained by Talmudic and other major commentaries on the Megillah.
The holiday of Purim has been held in high esteem by Judaism at all times; some have held that when all the prophetical and hagiographical works are forgotten, the Book of Esther will still be remembered, and, accordingly, the Feast of Purim will continue to be observed ( Jerusalem Talmud , Megillah 1/5a; Maimonides , Yad , Megillah).
Like Hanukkah , Purim's status as a holiday is on a lesser level than those days ordained holy by the Torah . Accordingly, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim, though in certain places restrictions have been imposed on work ( Shulkhan Arukh , Orach Chayim , 696). A special prayer (" Al ha-Nissim "—"For the Miracles") is inserted into the Shemoneh Esrei during evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as is included in the Grace after Meals.
The four main mitzvot of the day are:
Listening to the public reading, usually in synagogue , of the Book of Esther in the evening and again in the following morning.
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