Why Purim, a Jewish Holiday, Celebrates a Vegan Woman

Thereís an entire Jewish holiday that celebrates a courageous woman who, some say, was the first known Jewish vegan. Itís called Purim, and itís†the liveliest Jewish celebration of all.

Purim celebrates the rescue of Persian Jews from certain annihilation, thanks to the actions of one brave woman named Esther. It falls on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Generally speaking, thatís in March ó sometime during Lent for you Christians out there.

Why Queen Esther ate vegan in the palace

The story would make a great movie. It’s been done but not well. (Are you listening, Hollywood?) After Persian King Ahasuerus executed his queen, Vashti, for refusing his orders to show her beauty to his men, he took a new wife.

Ahasuerus chose Esther from among a slew of women who entered a Find-Me-a-New-Queen beauty pageant. What Ahasuerus didnít know was that Esther was Jewish. She didnít tell him.

As an ďundercoverĒ Jew, Queen Esther was determined to keep kosher as she reluctantly lived her new life in the palace. To be able to do that, she famously ate only seeds, nuts and legumes. Hence, she essentially became vegan to avoid the non-kosher foods traditionally served in Persian palace cuisine.

Persian rice dish

Persian jeweled rice is topped with nuts, raisins and orange zest. Photo credit: Getty Images

Also at the palace was Haman, the evil and decidedly anti-Semitic prime minister. Because Estherís cousin Mordechai failed to bow to him one day, Haman decided every single Jew in the land would have to be killed. To Queen Esther’s horror, he got the king to agree to the scheme.

Esther reacted by asking the king to hold two feasts. Though it might have meant her own destruction, Esther understood that she had to get the death sentence reversed. She finally revealed to her husband at the second feast that she was Jewish and asked the king to spare all the Jews in the kingdom.

Angered that the queen had been threatened, King Ahasuerus hanged Haman in the very gallows in which Haman had hoped to hang Mordechai. Esther, with the help of Mordechai, thus saved her people from certain death.

While other Jewish holidays tend to be more formal and introspective, Purim is joyous — full of food, alcohol and silly abandon. Jews dress up in costumes and have a rollicking good time. They enjoy cosplaying the Purim story as part of a ďspeilĒ — a comical dramatization of Estherís story. They even drink almost to excess that day to be able to “forget” who is a bad person and who is good.

What better time of year to try eating vegan?

Esther chose what essentially is a vegan diet to maintain her faithís commandment to keep kosher. To honor Esther, many Purim recipes emphasize dishes made with beans, seeds and nuts.

Did you know that Judaism forbids inflicting cruelty to animals? In addition, Jews are forbidden to hunt for sport or kill animals for fashion or vanity.

Even on the Sabbath when no work should be performed, Jewish belief instructs that Jews may violate this rule to rescue an animal in pain or at risk of death. And just as humans were commanded to rest on the Sabbath, they also must allow their working animals a day of rest.

These days, a growing number of Jews believe going vegan is a moral imperative of their faith. Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland, has said:

Judaismís way of life, its dietary practices, are designed to ennoble the human spirit. It is therefore a contradiction in terms to claim that products that come through a process that involves inordinate cruelty and barbarity toward animal life can truly be considered kosher in our world. In our world today, it is precisely a plant-based diet that is truly consonant with the most sublime teachings of Judaism and of the highest aspirations of our heritage.

sheep

Photo credit: Getty Images

ďTza’ar ba’alei chayim, not causing pain to another living creature, is a central principle of the Jewish tradition,Ē said Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles. ďAnd we violate it every time we eat something that we know was factory farmed, was debeaked, declawed, was treated cruelly.Ē

Certainly, any modern Jew who is inclined to faithfully follow the tenets of Judaism must stop and think carefully about this point. Can people truly say they are avoiding harm to animals if they continue to eat factory-farmed animals or animal products, such as milk and eggs?

More than 70 rabbis from across the globe joined together in 2017 to urge all Jews to adopt a vegan diet. They called on their fellow Jews ďto transition toward animal-free, plant-based diets. This approach to sustenance is an expression of our shared Jewish values of compassion for animals, protection of the environment, and concern for our physical and spiritual well-being.Ē

Indeed, what better time of year to go vegetarian or vegan than in the early spring, when life and the earth are renewed? If animal suffering on factory farms has been on your mind for a while but you just havenít gathered the fortitude to begin, do it now.

Trust me, itís not as overwhelming as it seems. I was there, seven years ago, right where you are now. One day I was not vegan. The next day I was — and I was so happy to have made the commitment. I never looked back and never will.

Photo credit: Getty Images

51 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S12 days ago

Thanks.

SEND
Ruth S
Ruth S12 days ago

Thanks.

SEND
Sue H
Sue H13 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Melisa B
Melisa B13 days ago

thank you for sharing.

SEND
Anna R
Anna R24 days ago

Thank you

SEND
Gino C
Gino C29 days ago

tyfs

SEND
Jan S
Jan Sabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

SEND
Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a month ago

thank you for sharing

SEND
Renata B
Renata Babout a month ago

Religions are tools, not goals. And as all tools they have big limitations. We should evolve enough to understand that decency and moral has nothing to do by respecting some practical rules that - although one different from the other - they are all dictated by all religions. And it would be time to stop the three strongly patriarchal Abrahamic religions to abuse and try to control women.

SEND
Renata B
Renata Babout a month ago

At least practising, devout Jews and Muslims do not hunt because they couldn't eat the meat, since the animal was not slaughtered according to Kosher and Halal rules. Obviously trophy hunting didn't exist. It is a modern plague.

SEND