Purim in the Digital Era

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Everything you need to know about iPurim.

Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays.  Celebrated on the 14th day of  Adar  (in the leap year, which is exactly this year, in the second month of  Adar) commemorates the time when the Jews were saved from annihilation during the realm of  Persian Empire. The Book of  Esther –  Megilat Esther gives a detailed description of the event. The Purim story can be read just like a fairy tale.

We move more than 2500 years back to Persia onto the court of king Achashverosh. When the king imposed a death sentence on his wife, the queen Vashti, he also ordered to search for a new wife for him. A Jewish girl Esther caught the eye of the king and she became the new queen.  She decided to conceal her true nationality.

In the same time Haman became the prime minister of the empire – the man who hated Jewish more than anything in life.  Mordechai, the leader of  the Jews and Ester’s cousin, against the king’s instructions refused to bow in front of  Haman. Because of  that Haman decided to sentence all Jews to annihilation. The pure faith pointed to the 13th day of Adar as the date for the killings.

As Esther found out about the plan, she revealed her nationality and asked the king to change the decision. In consequence Haman, all members of  his family and all the enemies of Jews were annihilated much the same way and exactly on the same day as they prepared to annihilate the Jews. Mordechai became the new prime minister of the empire.

In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on its thirteenth day … on the day that the enemies of the Jews were expected to prevail over them, it was turned about: the Jews prevailed over their adversaries. – Esther 9:1

Megilat Esther is read twice  in Synagogues during the Festival of  Purim – for the first time in the evening and for the second time in the morning on the following day. Following the tradition the gathered crowd reacts lively and loudly each time the name of the cruel Haman is mentioned. Not only can you hear the shouts or hostile murmurs of the crowd but noisemakers as well. These are definitely the loudest. Because of the fact that the name of  Haman comes up more than 50 times in the text and everybody has to hear each and every single word of  The Book of  Esther – the reciter has to stop every time to let the noise cool down.

The sound of  noisemakers called graggers is not the only indication that the Purim is a special holiday – people are dressed up, the carnival mood can be felt all around. There are scenes performed. Based on the Purim history the scene laugh at everything which in non-carnival reality is associated with seriousness: school, teachers, rabbis or even the traditional texts.

The tradition demands to perform some good deeds like making some food gifts to the poor strangers and friends (mishloach manot and matanot la’evyonim).  It is also obligatory to take part in festive meal during which, bigger than usual,  dosage of alcohol is consumed.

[Mordecai instructed them] to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor. – Esther 9:22.

It isn’t the place for more detailed analysis of the holiday so, using the Amazon app, it’s worth to have a look at one of  the eBooks for iPhone or iPad: Vedibarta Bam: And You Shall Speak of  Them – Megillat Esther – a compilation of selected Torah insights, though-provoking ideas, homilies and explanations on passages of  Megilat Esther.

Purim Guide

It’s the application which provides everything that you need to prepare yourself  for the holiday. “Purim Guide” consists ofhalachot about Purim, interesting texts explaining the very idea of the holiday, or even the recipe for hamentashen, a traditional Purim delight. This app was one of the first app about Purim to come up on the market.  As most apps created by Dovid Zirkind neither this one shocked with its interface. Having said that, it did improve on its practicality. Undoubtedly it is a great source of  knowledge about the Festival of Purim.

Megillas Esther

For a long time the only Megillat Esther for iPhone its now fully compatibile with iPad. The app is easy to operate, not only does it include a full Hebrew text but a few kinds of noismakers as well. When it’s the time to make noise, you can click a button and get a sound of gragger,  machine guns, the crowd ‘booing,’  firecrackers, and an air horn.

Megilat Esther HD

This app’s been available in the AppStore for few days only, just before Purim.  Book of  Esther (in Hebrew only), decorated with beautiful artworks from Malchut Waxberger Gallery, includes sounds and interactive animations, seems to be a great gift for children. It’s got a Hebrew interface but even without the knowledge of the language you’ll be able to make out what’s what (just to make it even easier – the first line of the menu is the text of  Megilat Esther with illustrations, the second one – just the illustrations, the third one – just the text, the last two lines are the blessings: before and after the reading of  The Book of Esther). If  you know the tale, the illustrations should encourage the children to listening to it and help you with explaining kids the very idea of  the holiday.  It can be a good starting point in explaining children that Judaism is something more than just a bunch of several million Jews spinning round somewhere in the desert.

Please Tell Me What the Rebbe Said – volumes 1, 2, 3

The three (free) apps can also be helpful in this respect. You can use them not only during the Purim time. They are the interpretations of the weekly Torah readings and the Festivals based on the talks of  the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The part relating to Purim is in the first app (you can also find it online here).

As the Megilat Esther is the part of  Tanach, there are several more apps in the AppStore where you can find this application –  Esh Tanach (Hebrew only),   Tanach by  RustyBrick  (Hebrew only),  Tanach for all (Hebrew and English, plus Onkelos).

But if you just need the content of  the book without the ‘firecrackers’, animations,  graggers, etc. then the best choice, that I can think of,  is Davka’s  Tanach Bible – the Hebrew text with English translation and Rashi’s commentaries. You can choose between only the Hebrew text, English and Hebrew or Rashi and Hebrew in parallel. Just as a reminder – Megilat Esther is in the “Writings (Ketuvim)” part.  I recommend this app strongly as it is on sale for a limited time only.  Its regular price is $9.99 now you can download it for just $1.99.

There is not much on offer for those who use phones with Android system.  If you choose to go to synagogue with this kind of a phone you can use Tanach for Android application. You can, of course,  find Megillat Esther there.  You can present to the children a funny Purim Memory game – classical memory game, in special Purim compilation. There is a music from popular songs in the background.

One of  the kid’s most favorite part of  Purim is making a lot of noise in synagogue. The traditionally used device for this purpose is a gragger/grogger (Yiddish) or ra’ashan (Hebrew).  Of course, the AppStore couldn’t lack the apps imitating those.

Grogger Factory

Ra’ashanim from Groggers Factory come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and they make different noises and sounds.  This app allows the users to compose their unique graggers by choosing the textures,  sounds and background graphics.


This application gives you a choice between twograggers, one from plastic and one from wood. Twirl your iPhone and the speed and intensity of your twirling will cause your gragger to whirl and make noise just like a real gragger.

We were in danger, they tried to kill us, but we won, so let’s eat.

Kosher cookbook

This app created by chef  Gloria Kobrin includes the recipes for the Shabbat meals, all kinds of ceremonies, and of course the holidays.  It couldn’t lack the recipes, or even a exemplary menu specially composed for the Purim feast.


Epicurious is a website dedicated to recipes, cooking, drinking, entertaining and restaurants. The site includes recipes from Bon Appétit magazine and Gourmet magazine. The site accepts recipe contributions from readers.  Even if the name doesn’t sound kosher ( ‘Epikoyres‘, means in Yiddish ‘heretic’),  in the app for iPhone you can find recipes for Purim dishes, that most importantly including hamentashen.

There comes the time for fun and music.

Purim Matching Game Memory Pairs is a simple but visually attractive memory game for children. It lets the children to familiarize with the symbols of Purim.  It can be used as a supportive educational material.

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In the iTunes you can find some Purim music:

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The indescribably good source of materials for excellent Jewish apps is the software by TES (Torah Educational Software). Until this day, the only app by TES available in the AppStore is the Jastrow Dictionary of Talmud. Torah Educational Software develops and distributes computer programs for ArtScroll, Bar Ilan University,  Feldheim,  Keter,  Otzar  Haposkim,  Yad HaRav Herzog and other famous publishers. I’m looking forward impatiently to the apps for the mobile devices. You can find some interesting points for Purim but, unfortunately, only as a computer software.

  • Sound of Purim – Authentic Liturgy & Melody – ideal tool for learning the way to chant using the traditional melodies.  Hear the words,  listen to the tunes.
  • Purim In Our Times – By Rabbi Berel Wein – Rabbi Wein retells the Purim story as we know it, but with new and meaningful nuances that will resonate for all times.
  • Megillat Esther Explained – MP3 – includes entire Book of  Esther.  Every verse clearly read in Hebrew and explained in English, by Rabbi  Shaul Alpren.  Highlights from the leading commentaries are also drawn upon to create a symphony of  Torah that will leave you inspired and knowledgeable.
  • Word by Word – Esther – teaches the meaning and pronunciation of every Hebrew word in the Megilat  Esther.
  • The Majesty of Purim – the story of  Purim as explained by the Talmud. The CD-ROM opens with lectures on the Talmud  & Aggadata of  Purim from Tractate Megilla. The Talmud is read in original text and explained in English.  Additional lectures cover the entire Mishna of  Megilla.
  • Happy Purim CD! – Purim videos,  songs,  games and more.  Loads of  fun for the whole family.
  • The Story of Purim – Queen of Persia DVD – it’s  a classic  tale of  good versus  evil.  It has all the elements of a captivating drama.  A virtuous heroine.  A wicked villain.  Suspense, intrigue,  and  surprise plot twists.

For more details visit TES Purim Store

If you’re having a Purim party at your place or you just need the Purim tales visualization for your children,  you can use  Davka software  – a well known developer of  Judaic software and now the leader in creating Jewish apps for Apple devices.  On its offer Davka has also got audio training tool for the study of chant Megilat Esther.  Unfortunately,  it is only available as a CD with the recordings in MP3 format  (you can easily transfer them onto your mobile device).

  • Davka Graphics Purim Decorations – exquisite graphics that display hamantash pastries, the Megillah, the Purim characters, and more (available for purchase via download only.)
  • MP3 Megillah – it features the full text of the Megillah in MP3 format,  chanted  in both Ashkenazic and Sephardic pronunciation, by an experienced  Megillah reader,  as well as useful PDF files of  the  Hebrew  text.

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There are loads  of  websites concerning  Purim on the Internet.  Lets restrict to just a few of them.

  • Chabad.orgwhich has been the leader for many years nowin creating educational materials. I n the section about Purim you can find:  Purim How-to guide, Insights and inspirations,  Purim stores  for reading and watching, recipes and more.
  • Torah.org – a website known for its high class Jewish educational materials, has also got a section with lessons concerning Purim
  • Naaleh.org – a website with thousands of hours of interesting video lessons, including dozens of hours devoted to Purim
  • G-dcast.com – a weekly cartoon about the story we are reading in the Torah – video dvar Torah for kids.  Every week, a different writer tells the parsha in 4 minutes. Kosher, nu, maybe not glatt kosher :-) but  kids will love it.  A Purim part below

  • Jacob Richman Home PageJacob for many years now has been creating websites concerning Jewish history, culture, Judaism, Israel, Hebrew and much, much more. In the Purim section you can find a short film with 16 Hebrew phrases and sentences about Purim. Includes Hebrew with nikud, English translations and transliterations.  An excellent way to learn Hebrew.   See the film below

Surely I haven’t exhausted the topic just yet. I hope that the above report mentioned the most important elements which highlight not only the traditional way of celebrating Purim, but not detracting it from its religious nature.

If you think that there is anything worth mentioning and it was omitted in the text , please share with us your suggestions either directly e-mailing us (use “Contact us” form) or in the comments section.

Chag Purim Sameach, Happy Purim!

Robert Pass (Mati Szmidt contributed to this report)

Illustration by H. Glicenstein, Purim, in “Tree of Life” by A.M. Duschkin, 1933

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