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Purim: Four Facets of Esther

Robert Indiana (American, b. 1928)

Purim: Four Facets of Esther, 1967

  • Screenprint on paper
  • 29 7/16 x 23 1/2 in. (74.8 x 59.7 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Commissioned by The Jewish Museum, JM 109-67
  • © 2008 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Purim: Four Facets of Esther

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Purim: Four Facets of Esther

Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction, as recounted in the Book of Esther. In the biblical story, Haman, evil advisor to the king of Persia, plots to slaughter all the Jews in the kingdom. He does not know, however, that Queen Esther is secretly a Jew. At the urging of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther decides to appeal to King Ahasuerus to try to save her people. Before taking the bold and precarious step of approaching the king uninvited, Esther fasts. (Jews today traditionally fast on the day before Purim in remembrance of Esther's fast.) The king, however, is happy to see her, and Esther invites the king and Haman to a series of feasts. At the final feast, Esther reveals her motives, accusing Haman of plotting to murder her and her people. Haman's evil plan is averted.

The celebration of Purim is one of the most festive of the Jewish year. There are four main mitzvot (commandments) to fulfill on this holiday. The first is to hear the reading of the megillah (scroll) of Esther. As the text is chanted in the synagogue, members of the congregation typically try to drown out Haman's name with noisemakers. The second mitzvah is to participate in a festive meal, and the third is to send gifts of food to friends and relatives. The final mitzvah is to give money or other donations to the poor, because even at our times of greatest joy, we must remember those who are in need.