Where Do Purim Costumes Come From?

While feasting and intoxication on the holiday of Purim are discussed in the Talmud, costumes are not. Yet dressing up has been a standard practice for centuries. Shlomo Brody looks at its origins:

Purim costumes originated as a medieval folk custom in Ashkenazi lands, leaving rabbinic scholars to discuss the propriety of the practice. One prominent discussion was written by a 15th-century German scholar who had moved to Padua. He permitted the wearing of masks, despite the opposition of some earlier figures, and even justified men and women wearing clothing of the opposite gender, despite the biblical prohibition of cross-dressing. . . .

Where does the practice of dressing up come from? Some have speculated that it commemorates how Mordecai was dressed in regal clothing, a clear turning point in the plot of the Purim story. Others believe that hiding one’s identity symbolizes how God’s hand was involved in the miraculous salvation, even though His name is never explicitly mentioned in the text of the story. Noting that Esther similarly hid her own identity, Zohar Hanegbi further contends that perhaps the intention is to mimic the many costume parties in the story. Whatever its commemorative message might be, several rabbis and historians have claimed that this folk custom imitated medieval European Christian carnivals (e.g., Fastnacht or Mardi Gras) which took place at around the same season. If true, this would be akin to the development of the contemporary American custom of Hanukkah presents during the “holiday season.”

Still, many have had reservations. The 17th-century Italian scholar Shmuel Abuhab viewed the wearing of costumes as a form of debauchery that detracted from the religious joy that one should feel on the holiday. Some particularly discouraged the pious from donning costumes, while others, like Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, banned cross-dressing for all.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Ashkenazi Jewry, Halakhah, Judaism, Ovadiah Yosef, Purim, Religion & Holidays

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict