(lots), the annual festival instituted to commemorate the preservation of the Jews in Persia from the massacre with which they were threatened through the machinations of Haman. (Esther 9:1) ... It was probably called Purim by the Jews in irony. Their great enemy Haman appears to have been very superstitious, and much given to casting lots. (Esther 3:7) They gave the name. Purim, or "Lots," to the commemorative festival because he had thrown lots to ascertain what day would be suspicious for him to carry into effect the bloody decree which the king had issued at his instance. (Esther 9:24) The festival lasted two days, and was regularly observed on the 14th and 15th of Adar. According to modern custom, as soon as the stars begin to appear, when the 14th of the month has commenced, candles are lighted up in token of rejoicing, and the people assemble in the synagogue. After a short prayer and thanksgiving, the reading of the book of Esther commences. The book is written in a peculiar manner, on a roll called "the Roll" (Megillah). When the reader comes to the name of Haman, the congregation cry out, "May his name be blotted out," or, "Let the name of the ungodly perish." When the Megillah is read through, the whole congregation exclaim, "Cursed be Haman; blessed be Mordecai; cursed be Zoresh (the wife of Haman); blessed be Esther; cursed be all idolaters; blessed be all Israelites, and blessed be Harbonah who hanged Haman." In the morning service in the synagogue, on the 14th, after the prayers, the passage is read from the law, (Exodus 17:8-16) which relates the destruction of the Amalekites, the people of Agag, (1 Samuel 15:8) the supposed ancestor of Haman. (Esther 3:1) The Megillah is then read again in the same manner. The 14th of Adar, as the very day of the deliverance of the Jews, is more solemnly kept than the 13th; but when the service in the synagogue is over, all give themselves up to merry making.
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