History How many Persians died in Purim

The Jewish festival of PurimAbout having fun in difficult times

The synagogue is upside down on Purim. The Jews come in disguise, make a lot of noise, the alcohol flows freely. In many ways Purim is reminiscent of carnival. But for Rabbi Walter Rothschild, the festival is much more than a joke:

"For me it is actually the most important holiday in a personal way. Liturgically it is not so, but it speaks about a possible genocide and it speaks about resistance. And in the context of a rabbi in Europe after the last century, I think that has a lot to say to us. "

With noise against the evil Haman

Which brings us to the story of Purim - that's in the biblical book of Esther. Every year cantors or parishioners read it out in full. It is quite possible that the lecturer is wearing a red nose or a blonde wig. The text can be heard in spoken chant.

The story takes place in the ancient Persian empire. Haman, a high government official of the king, is angry with the Jews of the empire. Because they only want to worship God and not kneel down before anyone else, not even before the king. Haman therefore wants to have all Jews in the empire killed.

Walter Rothschild is a rabbi, author, cabaret artist, songwriter and jazz singer (private)

During the reading, Jewish communities show very clearly what they think of Haman, says Walter Rothschild.

"You usually wait until the name of this bad Haman is mentioned. And then you make so much noise that you can't hear it anymore. So: And then Haman said - ratchet and so on."

"It's a historical tale, but it's very topical"

Walter Rothschild has a noisemaker, a ratchet in hand. Almost everyone in the synagogue is making noise, including with their feet, with rattles and whistles. Many children and adults have a lot of fun.

"Beating Haman" is the name of the custom. But when it comes to the character of Haman, Jews have thought of all possible rulers throughout their history. There are also Purim ratchets where the user hits a wooden Hitler head.

Philipp Peymann Engel's family comes from Iran (Deutschlandradio - Laura Lucas)

Philipp Peyman Engel would like to drown out the names of Iranian politicians with the ratchet. The editor of the Jüdische Allgemeine comes from a Jewish-Iranian family and feels particularly attracted by the Purim story, because it takes place in ancient Persia - and thus geographically in today's Iran.

"It is a historical narrative, but of course it is very topical and very, very current and present, especially for us Persian Jews. The heart beats even faster on Purim."

Dream about Tehran

Philipp Peyman Engel's family fled Iran after the Islamic Revolution. A life in freedom was no longer possible there, just as little success at work for Jews. The anti-Semitism, which already existed in the time of the Shah, has become even stronger. Iran still has the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East - after Israel.

"It is my mother's greatest dream, once with us children, I have two siblings, once to travel to Tehran, once to the Caspian Sea and once to really see the place that she tells so vividly about every day. I can Imagine very, very well, if we should really have the opportunity and the political events change, and many things appear very differently than in the imagination. But nonetheless, it is a dream. "

A preventive massacre

A dream that is particularly present for Philipp Engel on Purim. By the way, "Purim" means lots. The villain Haman wants to draw lots for the day on which all Jews are to die. The story of Purim turns out well for the Jews. This is thanks to the Jewish heroine of this story, Queen Esther. She has a party with plenty of alcohol and food. Walter Rothschild tells:

Ester shows her husband Ahasuerus the guilty Haman (imago stock & people / Gustave Doré)

"And then she says to the king: 'I am threatened, all my people.' And then the king says: 'Who can that be?' And the queen points to Haman and says, 'That guy!' And that's the end of Haman. And then there is a little problem. Germans in particular will understand that very well. An order has been given, sealed, stamped by the king. It cannot be canceled. Even if circumstances have changed . What can you do? You can only give one order and say: Oh, yes, and the Jews are also allowed to defend themselves. And then there is a small massacre, which is an embarrassing chapter for many people. The Jews take revenge or precautionary defense against the people who have already prepared to destroy the Jews themselves. "

"We Jews don't have to be victims"

Some historians believe that Xerxes II was the model for King Ahasuerus. Xerxes II lived in the fourth and fifth centuries before the common era. However, historically it is quite unlikely that a Jew was ever queen in the Persian Empire. To this day, many Jews like the victory over the anti-Semites, even if some have to swallow the bloody passages.

"It is part of Jewish ethics and morality that we do not harm other people. In this respect, I cannot like it if other people are harmed in this story. I also do not like this part of the story. Which of course very, very much is beautiful, and what is a current statement in history is that we Jews do not have to be victims, should not be victims, but that we Jews are able to defend themselves. "

Rabbi Walter Rothschild sees it similarly to the Jewish journalist Philipp Peyman Engel.

"In difficult times you always need a little courage, a little consolation. And if you can also drink a little, make parodies. And rabbis and kings and all VSIPs, 'very self important people', have fun Year women are allowed to dress like men and vice versa, children with a wrong beard can play rabbis, that is a wonderful escape of stress and tension. "