Thursday, March 05, 2015

What's with Hamantaschen?

The purpose of this blog is to help you put your head into Purim while perhaps putting some Purim into your head. Please print and share.

Plate of HamantaschenWhy are they shaped like that, and what does hamantashen mean, anyhow?

When I was a kid, we used to call them “Haman’s hat”. But that’s because we didn’t spreken Yiddish. Then I went to Israel where they call them “Oznay Haman” - Haman’s ears.

So I thought that tashen meant ears.

(Do Israelis imagine themselves as cannibals when they munch on their hamantashen?)

In fact, if you look in your Yiddish dictionary or talk to your Bubbe, you will learn that a tasch is a purse or bag.

There you have it. Hamantashen = Haman-bags.

Maybe they’re called “bags” because they are folded over with fruit inside, and “Haman” because they do look like Haman’s hat.

Or maybe he carried a triangular handbag.

Or maybe he did have triangular ears.

At this stage of my investigation I stumbled upon hard evidence that the ear theory is correct:

Meshaal earsSo what are supposed to do – defeat our enemies by mocking them? Sounds like a Monty Python line:

“We spit on you, you silly Persian. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries. Now go away or we will taunt you a second time!” (say with French accent)

Sometimes they make it so easy, by making themselves into clowns:


But if you look in that Yiddish dictionary again, you'll learn that man means "poppy". So the word mantaschen means "poppy-pockets" and therefore "Hamantaschen" is punny. (Hat tip to Natasha Shabat!)

Hamantaschen remind us that the truth is sometimes hidden, and that sometimes it helps to laugh.

....Even at ourselves.... Here's an oldy:

How many Jews does it take to change a lightbulb?
All of us and we feel guilty for not changing it earlier.


For your table: What's your favorite Jewish Joke? And what makes a joke a "Jewish joke"?

Remember, every Haman has his hour, and then his downfall.

Happy Purim, and Shabbat Shalom

PS - Here's a recipe for low-cal, no-gluten, no-cane-sugar hamantaschen.

PPS - Purim goes Western

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