Caption from News12: The Orthodox Jewish tradition for the Purim holiday has alarmed non-Jewish members of the Spring Valley community. (March 30, 2016 7:01 PM)
The Custom of Purim Effigy Has Been Debated by Scholars. The Timing of the Effigy in Spring Valley Can be Viewed as Nothing more than Antagonistic
LostMessiah March 31, 2016
On March 30, 2016 Blaise Gomes of Hudson Valley News 12, reported on her FB page the sighting of another hanging doll, noose tied around its neck, in Spring Valley. According to the post, the “effigy” is [presumably] part of the Purim tradition [of hanging a replica of Haman. Ms. Gomez’s one error is in referring to the custom as an “Orthodox” custom. In reality, it is really only practiced in ultra-Orthodox communities, both here and in many other countries including Israel. In addition, it is a tradition borne out of inexplicable texts and Rabbinical interpretations and there is no Jewish law which demands this of Jews.
Rembrandt Depiction of the Esther Story
According to MyJewishLearning, an article entitled “Purim History” in a section entitled Contemporary Observances:
Sarcastic, humorous, and iconoclastic entertainment has become a universal component of Purim celebration. Although written evidence of the Purim shpiel (Yiddish for “Purim play”) exists in Europe only from the 14th century, Purim entertainment is likely of ancient origin as well. Since Jewish performers and musicians did not exist as a professional class until the 18th century, Purim shpiels and wedding entertainments are our only source of Jewish popular pursuits for centuries. The biting content of Purim performances and the socializing, mockery, dressing up, and carousing surrounding them often provide an important forum for boundary-crossing on issues of gender, sexuality, authority, and relations with the non-Jewish world. Through satires of the original story in the Book of Esther, Purim performances and religious practices provide an essential and fixed measure of creative release exploring some of the Jewish community’s most sensitive topics.
The hanging doll, post Purim, is unsettling and antagonistic particularly in light of the many criticisms voiced by community leaders, of the black doll which was seen in earlier photographs this Purim. It is no longer Purim so the reality is that the doll could only have been hung as a form of antagonism. Coming from a community claiming bigotry and anti-Semitism at every turn, the hypocrisy is astounding.
For many who don’t understand the Purim holiday, the Book of Esther and its traditions have been debated throughout Jewish history. Practices in celebration were historically different in many Jewish communities worldwide and the commencement of those customs depended upon Rabbinical interpretation within each particular community. With regard to the origins both of the book and it customs, according to MyJewishLearning:
“… the origins of the Book of Esther remain obscure. The text’s style of Hebrew and its lack of corroborating historical information from ancient Persia suggest that the Book of Esther was not authored until well after the time it claims to describe. Nonetheless, the Book of Esther does contain many parallels to various ancient Near Eastern and Greek myths, particularly those of the Babylonian gods Marduk and Ishtar.”
Some scholars argue that the Book of Esther adapted stories about these pagan gods — Marduk becoming Mordecai and Ishtar transformed to Esther – -to reflect the realities of its own Jewish authors in exile. The period of Greek hegemony in the Land of Israel seems to have offered the social, cultural, and political circumstances for the development of this reinterpreted mythology. The actual text of the Book of Esther is thought to be of late Second Temple authorship, being amongst the latest books to enter the Bible, alongside Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Daniel.”
Particularly in regard to the custom of effigy (which in many ultra-Orthodox communities includes burning the doll, or dressing as an “Israeli army exterminator“), in an article by Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin from The Scheckter Institute, entitled “Blotting Out Haman on Purim“:
“custom[s] may have stemmed from a literal interpretation from the verse in Deuteronomy to blot out the memory of Amalek/Haman. On the other hand, it may have been an outlet for Jews to blow off steam at their current persecutors by taking revenge on a puppet…”
“In any case, this was a widespread custom which may have started as early as the fourth century and continues to our day.”
Regardless of the origins either of the Book of Esther or of its customs and traditions, the simple fact that the hanging of the doll is post-Purim, and follows significant criticism, the community cannot claim that this effigy is either part of a custom or part of a holiday tradition. For any non-Jews reading these articles, the greater Jewish community, including many in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish community, do not engage in this custom during Purim; and likely would not condone it now. We view it as nothing more than a community inciting hatred.
To read the Blaise Gomez post click, here.
To see the related new report: