The Anxieties of Purim

The book of Esther and the festival of Purim mark the beginnings of the exilic world, in which the battle to remain Jewish never really goes away.

A scroll of the book of Esther from northern Italy, mid-eighteenth century. Wikimedia/Israel Museum.

A scroll of the book of Esther from northern Italy, mid-eighteenth century. Wikimedia/Israel Museum.

Atar Hadari
Observation
March 18 2016
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


On Purim and all the days of Hanukkah, a curious piece of liturgy is added to both the blessing after meals and the thrice-daily silent prayer. The two festivals have in common that each is of entirely rabbinic invention and celebrates a miraculous deliverance from Gentile monarchy. There is a specific version for Hanukkah and a parallel one for Purim, but the two share the same opening lines, the first two words of which, al ha-nissim, give the prayer its name (I’ve used the Sephardi version here, but the wording in the Ashkenazi liturgy is nearly identical):

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More about: Exile, Hanukkah, Purim, Religion & Holidays