As always, there is a food associated with Purim. In addition to all that food at the celebration feast, there are the hamantashen (the plural version of hamantash, which also spelled hamentasch, homentash, homentasch, or even (h)umentash). These triangular-shaped cookies are filled with a variety of yummy fillings from fruit pastes to chocolate to cream cheese fillings. The traditional filling is either poppy seed or lekvar (fruit paste). The most popular lekvar is a paste of dried plums cooked with orange.
But the big question is what do these funny-shaped cookies have to do with Purim anyway? From the name hamantashen, you probably guessed that they are somehow linked to the villain of the Purim story, one Haman the Agagite, who sought to annihilate the Jews. Hamantashen is a Yiddish word that means “Haman’s pockets.” In Israel, these cookies are called “oznei Haman” which means “Haman’s ears”. Interestingly, hamantashen is a plural. A single cookie should correctly be called a hamantash, but it is common to call them hamantashen whether you are eating just one, or several. Maybe that is because it is kind of hard to eat just one! There are too many yummy flavors to try.
So why triangles? There is a legend that Haman was always seen wearing a triangular hat. Personally, I think it is just because you have to fold them somehow to hold the filling in! But here is an interesting tidbit. The documentary film maker Simcha Jacobovici, in his “Naked Archeologist” TV show, points out that we know from ancient art that the dice of the Babylonians and Persians were not cubes like ours but triangular pyramids (1). The connection could be directly to the “purim,” the dice that Haman used to select the day on which he would destroy the People of HaShem.
So are you ready to try your hand at making some of these delicious morsels?
If so, be sure to check out our next post (tomorrow morning) for recipes and pictures.