Tuesday, March 6, 2012


My love affair with the Jewish holiday of Purim started with the cookies:

kate & erin & anna & sofia make amazing hamantaschen

What’s not to love? They’re triangles! With poppy seeds! American baking does not use nearly enough poppy seeds.

For years, I made these cookies every February, knowing only that Purim usually falls in late winter, and bakeries in and around New York always had these cookies that time of year. It would have been enough just to have the cookies.

The more I’ve learned about Purim in the last couple of years, though, the more interesting the holiday is. On the simplest level, Purim is the commemoration of the holocaust that Queen Esther prevented. It would have been enough only to know that this holiday celebrates one of my favorite scriptural stories.

The Velveteen Rabbi discusses the cookies and the story in terms of concealment and revelation. In the text of Esther, God works through Mordechai and Esther, though He is never mentioned directly. Like the poppy seeds (or apricots, or prunes), God is concealed, hidden from view. It’s a beautiful reminder to look for God in the people and events around us. Though, if your hamantaschen, like ours, tend to ooze open, flaunting their secrets all over the cookie sheet, this metaphor works less well.

I love the cookies, and I love the story, and I love the holiday which reminds me to enjoy them both each year.


  1. Lovely wee sketch of a tangible delectable and a fantastic metaphor.