“Purim Holiday/Purim Holiday/A big holiday for the Jews
Masks and noisemakers/Songs and Dance/Let’s make noise rash rash rash.”
(Classic Hebrew Purim Song - Chag Purim)
Although noisemakers are not mentioned in the Book of Esther, they are one of the items most frequently associated with the holiday of Purim. Most English speakers refer to these noisemakers as groggers (also spelled graggers), and they can best be defined as the musical instrument known as a ratchet. In modern Hebrew, a noisemaker is called a ra’ashan. As implied by the Yiddish origin of the word grogger, these noisemakers are of Ashkenazi origin, although they have, with few exceptions, become common in most Purim celebrations.
It is not clear when the grogger in its current form became popular, but it appears to be a derivative of the custom noted by Rabbi Moshe Isserles (16th century Poland) of writing the name Haman on two smooth pieces of wood or stone and banging them against each other until the name was no longer legible.
It is known that the custom reflects the mitzvah that one should “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget" (Deuteronomy 25:19). In connection to Haman, there are numerous ways in which this commandment was fulfilled:
1) After saying Haman’s name, the phrase Yimach Shemo, His name should be erased, is stated.
2) Writing the name Haman on the bottom of one’s shoe and stamping out his name.
3) An effigy of Haman is either hung, pelted with stones and/or burned. (This was a custom in the Babylonian Gaonic period and in some old European communities, and may not be acceptable within the context of modern western society.)
It should be noted that many Sephardi, Mizrachi and Yemenite synagogues do not permit noisemaking during Megillah reading itself as they consider it a violation of appropriate decorum. In those synagogues where noisemakers are permitted, it is important that the noise end on cue, so that the Megillah reading may continue in a fashion in which all congregants will be able to hear each word of the reading.
This Treat was last posted on February 21, 2013.
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