3.08.2009

I met a Jew...

from Paras the other week! He sounded vaguely French, so I thought he said Paris, but when I made some comment about having been there for a week once, he took one look at my white skin and said, "No, Paras!" (Or more accurately, "לא, פרס"). I guess "Paras" is just how you say "Persia" in Hebrew, but when I first heard him say it, I thought it was a specific region in ancient Persia that was mentioned in the Megillah:
יג וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ, לַחֲכָמִים יֹדְעֵי הָעִתִּים: כִּי-כֵן, דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, לִפְנֵי, כָּל-יֹדְעֵי דָּת וָדִין. 13 Then the king said to the wise men, who knew the times--for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment;
יד וְהַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו, כַּרְשְׁנָא שֵׁתָר אַדְמָתָא תַרְשִׁישׁ, מֶרֶס מַרְסְנָא, מְמוּכָן--שִׁבְעַת שָׂרֵי פָּרַס וּמָדַי, רֹאֵי פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, הַיֹּשְׁבִים רִאשֹׁנָה, בַּמַּלְכוּת. 14 and the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king's face, and sat the first in the kingdom:
טו כְּדָת, מַה-לַּעֲשׂוֹת, בַּמַּלְכָּה, וַשְׁתִּי--עַל אֲשֶׁר לֹא-עָשְׂתָה, אֶת-מַאֲמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, בְּיַד, הַסָּרִיסִים 15 'What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, forasmuch as she hath not done the bidding of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains?'

After he revealed where he was from, we exchanged some quotes from the Megillah (mostly things like "שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה מְדִינָה" / "over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces"). Sometimes, these little, insignificant exchanges happen and I feel very happy to be here.

It made me wonder if Jews from Persia feel differently about Purim than Jews from other parts of the world. Do they celebrate it more personally? Differently? Do they claim special ownership over it? Is Bostonian:Patriot's Day like Persian Jew:Purim?

4 comments:

Sarah said...

As Donald Kagan, a classical historian, would say, "one man's Mede is another man's Persian." Sorry, couldn't resist.

I don't know about Bostonians, but Patriot's Day is part of Pesach in my book.

shanna said...

I want to reclaim Purim as my SUPER SPECIAL holiday (I'm half Persian), but I don't have enough of a connection to that (chiloni) side of my family to know about any specific traditions or connections we have. I should ask, I know.

mjg said...

I know that, in Iran, "Paras" (or however you say it in Persian) refers only to a particular region of Iran, while "Iran" refers to the whole country. I think that Persian is the dialect that was spoken originally in that region. In English (due to the influence of British classicists, probably), and I guess in Hebrew, it came to refer to the whole country. Bernard Lewis discussed this in his talk at TAU in January. The English (and general European) name of the country was changed to Iran, I think in 1936, because they wanted to emphasize the fact that they were Aryan, and natural allies of Nazi Germany. (That might be a reason why modern Hebrew uses "Paras" to refer to the whole country.) In reaction to this, the British forced the Nazi-sympathizing Shah to resign, and put his son (the last Shah) in office.

BZ said...

It made me wonder if Jews from Persia feel differently about Purim than Jews from other parts of the world. Do they celebrate it more personally? Differently?

Yes, or at least they did a generation ago. My mother tells of the time she went to a megillah reading at a Persian synagogue in Jerusalem in the 1970s, and the people reacted to the highs and lows of the story as if they were really there.