It’s a longstanding tradition to eat hamantaschen on Purim. As with so many of our traditions, there are multiple explanations for the custom, and in the case of hamantaschen, there are reasons for both the name and shape of the delicacy. Because we don’t like to leave any stone unturned, we treat each explanation with respect and acknowledge that many of them are certainly plausible.
Clearly, the first part of the word “hamantaschen” refers to the evil Haman. There is little debate about that. The second half of the word does spark some debate. “Taschen” is the German word for pockets, and it was said that Haman’s pockets were lined with bribe money. This is pretty straightforward, but there remains much speculation about the shape of the delicacy. Most people learned that the dough is formed into a three-cornered shape because that was the shape of Haman’s hat. But further investigation indicates that such a style was not in fashion in Haman’s time, and it’s unlikely he ever wore a hat like that. It’s much more probable that over the centuries, as hats came into vogue, an association between Haman’s alleged hat and the pastries was born.
The Hebrew word for ears is “oznayim,” and another explanation for the shape of what we call hamantaschen is related to a Jewish commentary that describes Haman as bent over and shamed, with “oznayim mekutafot,” twisted or bent ears. Perhaps this occurred during his execution by hanging. But the likelihood is that most children, and even some adults, much prefer the hat explanation for the shape of this sweet.
In the Biblical story of Purim, Haman is an inept, egotistical, and deeply antisemitic adviser to the king of Persia. After he becomes angered by a Jewish man named Mordechai who refuses to bow down to him, Haman devises a plot to exterminate all the Jews. But this year, as Purim is upon us, I would like to propose a change. Since we will bake and eat something that is clearly named for a Jew-hater, it might be appropriate to rename the tasty Purim treat. Currently, the personification of evil in this country is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somalian-born woman from Minnesota. We could call them Omar-hamantaschens — no further explanation needed!
Anti-Semitism has always been a fact of life. In recent times, we’ve had to deal with the likes of the vicious Louis Farrakhan. The best that may be said about him is that he has never been elected to Congress. Al Sharpton is another Jew-hater. He led his first antisemitic riot and inflamed the crowd in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, after a car accident led to the tragic death of a young black boy. The car involved in the accident was in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Sharpton made as much of it as possible and then went on to rewrite history by claiming that it was the Jews who did the rioting. He was also a highly visible presence in Harlem protesting the expansion of Freddy’s, a Jewish-owned clothing store. But his most notorious and outrageous escapade did not involve Jews. On this well-known occasion he did his level best to foment unrest by pitting blacks against whites as he promoted the tale of a young black girl named Tawana Brawley. His Jew-hating and race-baiting is legendary, and for this he has been rewarded with four radio shows across the country! The only positive note here is that, like ‘Louis the Louse,’ as I choose to refer to Farrakhan, Sharpton has not been elected to Congress.
Ilhan Omar, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. She sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Only the people of Minnesota who voted her into congress can vote her out in the next election, but she can and should be stripped of her committee membership. As of this writing, she has not been. Her buddies are Linda Sarsour and another congresswoman, a Palestinian Jew-hater named Rashida Tlaib. A third congresswoman to watch out for is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is currently raising money for Omar’s defense and has proclaimed that she is proud of Ilhan Omar.
But why stop at Sarsour and Omar’s two supporting congresswomen? Progressives, Democrats one and all, have also come to Omar’s defense by claiming that she is doing nothing wrong but is only raising questions about Israel’s “policies” and not about Jews, per se. Inexplicably, Chuck Schumer has chosen to ignore her rhetoric. He did speak out against Obama’s policy towards Israel, but his support appears to have ended there. In the Jewish community, the best that he is known for is speaking to Jewish groups and marching in the Israel Day Parade. But of course! Marching in a parade always helps to garner support. But when it comes to speaking out about Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic rants, he is nowhere to be found — or heard. This woman’s supporters and defenders have chosen to ignore what she said about American Jews having dual allegiance, about AIPAC dollars buying pro-Israel support, and allegations that Israel has hypnotized the world.
Purim is here. How appropriate that we are now once again forced to deal with Jew-haters. Despite the current rise of antisemitism, here and around the world, we will survive. With the help of Hashem, the haters will be defeated, and we will dress in costume, give mishloach manos, and have a very happy Purim.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435