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Why Do We Dress Up on Purim?

Why Do We Dress Up on Purim?

On wearing costumes on the holiday of Purim

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Dear Rabbi:

Why is it the custom to wear costumes on the Jewish holiday of Purim?

Answer:

There are several reasons given for the age-old custom to dress up in costumes1 on Purim. Here are some of them:

  1. In contrast to the overt miracles of the holidays of Passover, Chanukah and other Jewish holidays, the miracle of the holiday of Purim was disguised in natural events. Here is a sampling of the story: The king wanted his wife to come to a party; she did not want to, and she was killed. Then an evil man wanted the Jews dead and plotted to accomplish this with the approval of the king. The king remarried, and his new queen happened to be Jewish, and arranged for the annulment of the decree. Only after the fact, when one looks at the entire story, does one realize the great miracle that transpired.

    The custom of wearing costumes on Purim is an allusion to the nature of the Purim miracle, where the details of the story are really miracles hidden within natural events.2
  2. The Talmud writes that just as the Jews at the time pretended to be serving other gods, G‑d pretended that He was going to destroy the Jewish nation, and in the end He did not.3 Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro (1783–1841), known as the Bnei Yissaschar, writes that this is the reason we pretend to be someone else on Purim, since both the Jews’ and G‑d’s actions were masked by other intentions.4
  3. We dress differently on Purim to minimize the embarrassment of the poor who go around collecting charity on this day—a day when we give charity to everyone who outstretches their hand.5
  4. To commemorate the dressing up of Mordechai in King Ahasuerus’s royal garments in the story of Purim.6

For more, see Masquerade! and our additional articles on Dressing Up on Purim.

Best wishes,

Dovid Zaklikowski,
Jewish Practice @ Chabad.org

FOOTNOTES
1.

See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 697:8.

2.

Minhagei Kol Aryeh. See Rabbi Moses Hagiz (18th century), Eileh Hamitzvot, p. 293.

3.

Talmud, Megillah 12a.

4.

Bnei Yissaschar, vol. 2, in the chapters on Adar.

5.

Minhagei Kol Yaakov.

6.

Rabbi Shlomo Danah, Shalmei Todah (Inyanim Nifradim), p. 30.

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Discussion (4)
March 18, 2014
Queen Ester
I still don't understand the dress up part. I also don't understand that The Lord pretended to wipe out the Jews. That persecution was not from the Lord that I can find anywhere in the scriptures. Ester chose NOT to dress up with jewelry and make up but instead went to show herself before the king as a natural beauty. He chose her for her natural beauty. I really only know details of the seven feasts or appointed times but I'm learning about the two new feasts, too.
Anonymous
March 22, 2013
Why do we not wear our own self
I did not understand ur explanation whatsoever, I thought at Purim you dress up to remember that queen Esther 'dressed up' her Jewish Identity and that it is the dressing up that saved the Jews since after she was able to convince the king not to kill the Jews. G-d had nothing to do with this?
Suzy
Manhattan
March 8, 2012
Costumes
I saw so many Jewish children wearing costumes today, I had to see what it's all about. Thank you for the explanation. I was really baffled.
Daniel
Brooklyn, NY
March 5, 2012
the party
I heard that the queen did attend the party but did not dance for the king, so he banished her from the land.
Anonymous
chapel hill, NC