The Meaning Behind Purim Hamantaschen

There’s a common saying that Jewish holidays can be summed up as “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” It certainly holds true for Purim, when the evil Haman tried to convince the king of Persia to kill all his Jewish subjects — a plan that was thwarted by the queen who, unbeknownst to the king, happened to be Jewish. So why the hamantaschen? One tradition says it represents Haman’s ear; another, his three-cornered hat. A more recent interpretation goes below the belt and, citing the young (read: fertile) Queen Esther, claims the filled pastry pocket is none other than a uterus. After watching the video, use the prompts below to learn more and get your students thinking.

  1. The Talmud says that on Purim:
    • You should drink so much that you can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman
    • Jews should dress up so that nobody can tell who they are
    • Jews should not use electricity
    • Jews should hear Megilat Esther three times
  2. What is the customary Purim food for many Mizrachi Jews?
    • Falafel
    • Ma’amouls
    • Matboucha
    • Hummus
  3. What is the customary Purim food for Ashkenazi Jews?
    • Cholent
    • Gefilte Fish
    • Hamantaschen
    • Rugelach
  4. From where and when is the oldest mention of Hamantaschen?
    • 14th century Poland
    • 19th century Russia
    • 18th century Germany
    • 16th century Italy
  5. What does Mohntaschen mean?
    • Cookie pockets filled with poppy seeds
    • Oreo cookie costumes
    • A German montage
    • A cookie in the shape of Mordechai’s hat
  1. Hamantaschen or Oznei Haman (in Hebrew) are a classic Jewish food associated with Purim. What other Jewish foods did you grow up with and what role has Jewish food played in your life?
  2. There are multiple interpretations of the meaning behind Hamantaschen. Read some of the different interpretations here. What is the value of ascribing meaning to our traditional foods? What other examples can you think of?
  3. Watch this video about Jewish food from Unpacked. Ask your students to each come up with a definition for Jewish food. After sharing all of the definitions, try to come up with one definition as a group.
  1. Since 1946, the University of Chicago has held an “Annual Latke-Hamantash Debate” in which scholars including Nobel Prize Laureates and University presidents have debated the age old question of food superiority. Host your own Latke-Hamantash debate or replace the two delicacies with other Jewish foods for fun!
  2. Bake Hamantaschen with your students using one of the following recipes!
  3. Watch our video about Israeli food and utilize the accompanying educational resources.
  4. Play our Kahoot about Hamantaschen!

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