By Allan M. Levine, Ph. D., Purim, 2021
On a Purim Eve some years ago, two Jews ran into each other as they were rushing home for the holiday. At the time each of them carried an oversized, 3-cornered hamentash pastry. Fortunately, neither of them was injured, but the 2 large 3-cornered pastries they carried collided in a way that produced a large pastry cookie in the shape of a 6 – pointed star!
One of these fellows was named David, so became known as a “Star of David”.
As word of this amazing event went around, a custom arose in which Jews would rush to greet each other on Purim eve, while each carried an oversized, 3-cornered pastry. With good humor, friendly intention and much fanfare, each neighbor bumping into another would produce another “Star of David”.
Poppy seed or “mohn” filling was found least likely to squirt out onto their clothes when they bumped & the two hamentashen (plural) collided, so for a while, this became the preferred filling. Local farmers sometimes also use the latest crop of plum prunes, strawberries, raspberries or apricots as filling, so today these are also used.
Since such annual “neighborly collisions” could occur with so much force there was concern that they might result in injury, so folks decided to modify this custom and instead,, began the practice of sending a dish or basket with at least 2 smaller hamentashen along with other snacks on the plate to their neighbors. Each neighbor could now safely enjoy making, sharing or eating their own 6-pointed “Star of David” pastry for Purim with friends or family. Otherwise, they could just eat them as yummy, triangle-shaped hamentashen for Purim holiday.
There’s another pastry called a Sufganiya (plural “soof-gah-nee-yot”), that should also be mentioned here. These are jelly or cream-filled sugary solid DONUTS-without-a- hole, which are quite popular and in wide use among Israelis and other Jews for Chanukah and also on Purim.
Still another clever Jewish neighbor discovered that if you take two of these just prepared sufganiyot still warm, from your kitchen and attach them to a long cooked noodle or “loksh” and then carefully place one over each ear while they’re held by the noodle placed on top of your head, your ears will stay warm and protected when you walk home in cold Purim season Wintery weather. They not only warm the ears, but if a few drops of oil drips from them onto ears and cheeks of the person “wearing” them, an benefit results which prevents your face and skin from becoming dry or chafed in the cold evening air. And thus, earmuffs produced from sufganiyot, were created.
Now we know how two such popular foods for celebrations were added to Jewish tradition, created with unique shapes and flavors, for later generations to embellish and enjoy!
Aahhh! What a people! What traditions!
Happy Purim, to one and all!