In honor of Purim, which is today, I will leave you with an old blog post I wrote some years ago, and a link to a new post, by Rabbi Dennis.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Purim and Hamentashen
(apologies to those with delicate sensibilities...)The word "hamentashen," which refers to the cookes eaten at Purim, is commonly translated into English as "Hamen's Hats." Which is strange, because "taschen" means pocket, not hat. I found this blog post http://www.balashon.com/2006/03/hamentaschen.htmlthat attempts to explain this, but wearing my more rad-fem mythologist hat (or pocket) I don't think that it goes far enough. The blog post:The etymology of hamentaschen is fairly well known. They did not originally refer to Haman (and therefore the Hebrew אוזני המן oznei haman - came much later.) These pastries were originally called "mahn-taschen". Mohn means "poppy" in German, and tasch is a pocket. When you add the Hebrew definitive article ha, they become ha-mahn-taschen, which is easy to associate with Haman. Of course there are many "midrashim" (really Purim torah), that expound on the connection: that Haman had three-cornered ears like the pastry, or had a three cornered hat, or a new one for me, that it refers to המן תש - "Haman became weak." Posted by DLC at Sunday, March 12, 2006 7:47 AM
OK, but why pockets. Or hats? Or ears (another name for the cookie)? What do all of these things have in common, besides not usually being triangular (the shape of the cookie)? Answer: they are all receptacles-something to put something in. Purim is the least "Jewish" of modern Jewish holiday observances. A holiday of the full moon of the spring Equinox, the main player is a woman celebrated for her beauty, rather than piety, or observance, or obedience. Esther (think Aster, Ishtar, Innana) has the power of life and death, renewal; regeneration in her hands. Power she exercises by touching the "scepter" of the king. The man that Queen Esther chooses gets to rule the people. (does this sound familiar to you, Tammuz?)
But, back to the cookies. Look at them. Really look at them. Dark triangles (traditional fillings being poppy seed or prune), bounded by a paler, finer textured border. We already have the kings scepter, held out. So what exactly are these little pastry triangles, given the names of various receptacles? What do we celebrate so joyously, each spring?
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my heart was moved for him.I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with flowing myrrh,
My beloved is white and ruddy, pre-eminent above ten thousand.His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are curled, and black as a raven.His eyes are like doves beside the water-brooks; washed with milk, and fitly set.His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as banks of sweet herbs; his lips are as lilies, dropping with flowing myrrh.His hands are as rods of gold set with beryl; his body is as polished ivory overlaid with sapphires.His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold; his aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether
lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend. (Song of Songs)
And, from Rabbi Dennis: