Intrigue in Shushan

What is it, then, that we celebrate in the frivolity of Purim?

By ARI D. KAHN
March 16, 2016 21:34
‘The Triumph of Mordecai’

‘The Triumph of Mordecai’ (1624) by Pieter Pietersz Lastman, in the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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Purim is a raucous holiday. With gifts and costumes and perhaps a little wine, it is a day (or, in Israel, what seems like an entire week) of celebration and happiness.

What is the source of this festive atmosphere? Our automatic assumption is that an answer may be found in Megilat Esther, the Book of Esther, which tells the story of this unique celebration and is read on Purim. And yet the story told in the megila is a complex one and, in fact, gives only a partial answer to our question.

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