Purim comes to Parsippany this weekend. The Jewish holiday of celebration and sharing begins at sundown Saturday and continues for 24 hours.
The festive, fun occasion marks the victory of the Jewish people over the evil Haman, who was prime minister to Persian King Xerxes and who plotted to slay the Jews. Queen Esther, Jewish but closeted, heard of Haman’s vile plot and, with her Uncle Mordecai, turned the tables and saved her people. The biblical Book of Esther tells the whole tale and is worthwhile reading.
Purim is, of course, a Jewish observance, but even goyim can get something from the holiday. It’s an amazing day that puts family, community and unity at its center. Celebrating the resilience and survival of the Jewish people is undoubtedly a good thing. And the food... well, Rabbi Sholom Lubin of Congregation Shaya Ahavat Torah said it best.
"What's better than eating?" he asked rhetorically.
Indeed, Rabbi, indeed.
The day’s traditions include doing mitzvot—good deeds—for others: giving Matanot L’evyonim, food gifts to the poor; and sharing Mishlo’ach Manot, gifts of food to friends and family. All are wonderfully loving and humane Purim customs.
Of course there are religious aspects to this joyous day, such as the reading of the Megillah, aka the Book of Esther, which tells the story behind Purim and pays tribute to an amazing woman of courage.
And then there is the revelry, complete with groggers (noisemakers shaken to drown out any mention of Haman’s name), colorful costumes, the Purim Schpiel (a funny skit for the holiday) and a wonderful dinner, Mishteh, with lots of yummy dessert treats.
Parsippany's Jewish congregations will celebrate the holiday in their own ways:
- Temple Beth Am, a Reform community, holds its holiday event Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
- Temple Adath Shalom, a Conservative synagogue, presents a Purim Carnival for kids 5 and under starting at 10 a.m. Sunday and one aimed at those over 5 at 10:30 a.m.
- Congregation Shaya Ahavat Torah, which operates in the Orthodox tradition, celebrates Purim with a reading of the Megillah at the shul on Saturday at 7 p.m., and with a special brunch Sunday at 11 a.m. The brunch will take place at the Brooklake Country Club in Florham Park.
The celebrations likely will feature the traditional three-cornered filled pastry Hamantaschen, which is supposed to resemble Haman’s hat. Now, on Purim, a day when participants are encouraged to drink wine and wallow in joy, watching calories and nutrition seems silly, but if there's a healthy way to celebrate, why not consider it? Our family's annual Purim treat is a guilt-free vegan version of the traditional cookie. Here's the recipe.
- 1-1/2 cups vegan margarine, at room temperature
- 1 cup evaporated cane juice or other unprocessed, sweetener
- 1/4 cup silken tofu, pureed
- 6 tbsps. orange juice
- 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsps. baking powder
- 4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- a variety of all-fruit preserves – apricot, strawberry, raspberry, whatever you like
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer at low speed to cream together the margarine and sugar. Beat in the puréed tofu, and then the orange juice and vanilla extract. Add the baking powder and flour; mix until the dough turns into a ball. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Lightly flour a rolling pin and a large cutting board – I prefer a wooden surface. Place your chilled dough onto the board and roll the dough until it is very thin – between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick. Using a floured cookie cutter or glass, cut into 3-inch wide circles.
Here is where we start to have some real fun: Place about one teaspoon of the fruit preserves in the center of each round. Dip a pastry brush in water and wet the outside edge of each dough circle, then pinch the three sides together to form a triangle – Haman’s hat. Make sure that the filling is safely enveloped within the dough.
Place the cookies onto an ungreased baking sheet, and put the sheet into the refrigerator for an hour to allow the cookies to chill again in order to help them keep their shape.
Preheat oven to 375° F / 190° C. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are a light golden brown. When you remove the cookies from the oven, be sure to allow them to rest on the hot baking sheet for a minute – then transfer the cookies – carefully – to a wire rack. Makes about three dozen little bits of celebration.
Enjoy, and if you celebrate Purim, Patch wishes you and yours a Khag Sameakh!