Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
February 2000


Special Purim Celebrations

The holiday of Purim commemorates one of the many times that the Jews of a community, when threatened with destruction, were saved. These deliverance days were inaugurated and celebrated as festivals on their yearly anniversary. The threats include man-made (mobs, tyrants, etc) and natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, etc.). The events are varied, but the common thread is the inauguration of a day of celebration. Families, that were saved, also introduced special family celebrations.

On March 9, 1977, terrorists invaded the Washington, DC headquarters of B'nai B'rith. 136 hostages were held for 38 hours. The hostages were hit, pistol-whipped, and verbally abused. Police were finally able to negotiate an end to the ordeal. All were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms.

When the ordeal was over the hostages gave thanks to G-d that they were still alive. On the anniversary of the event, a special Purim was established, known as the Frimer Family Purim. 1

The famous bibliographer, Moritz Steinschneider records 22 Purims ("Purim und Parodie" in MGWJ, vol. 47), The Jewish Encyclopedia (vol. 10 p. 279-283. New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1905) has 29, and the Encyclopedia Judaica (vol. 13 cols. 1396-1400. Jerusalem, Keter, 1971) has 110. Cecil Roth wrote an important article covering Purims during the period of 1790-1801 ("Some revolutionary Purims" in HUCA, vol. 10 p. 451-482). Philip Goodman in The Purim Anthology (Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1949) has a chapter on special Purims.

We seem to have very little written about these special days when the Jews were saved. There are no books devoted to the topic. I would just like to retell one of these events because it parallels the Biblical Purim.

The source is, Old European Jewries, by David Philipson (Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1894). The city of Frankfurt-am-Main was home to Jews from about the year 1360, when permission was given to settle in the city. They had no political rights, nor could they hold office. In 1460 they were compelled to live in a ghetto. In the 17th century, there was a particular animosity by the members of the trade guilds against the Jews. The trade guilds wanted the Jews expelled from the city. Their leader was a baker, Vincent Fettmilch. On August 22, 1614, they attacked. However, the Jews had been warned. The Jews prepared to resist by procuring arms and defensive gates. After removing their wives and children to a safe place, the men went to the synagogue to pray. While there, they heard the mob attacking the gates. Since the mob couldn't break the gates, they entered the ghetto through a house next to the gate. A fight followed for the next eight hours. Two Jews and one attacker were killed. The Jews were outnumbered and overwhelmed. The mob plundered the houses until a band of armed citizens stopped them. The town council advised the Jews to leave, because they could not be protected. They remained away for a year and a half until order could be restored

The leaders of the mob were convicted and beheaded. The Christian population was required to pay the Jews 175,919 florins as compensation for the damages. In memory of these events, the 19th of Adar was a fast day, remembering of the departure from Frankfurt and the 20th of Adar became a holiday called Purim Fettmilch, in honor of their return.

New Books

Rabbi Yitzchak Sender has just published his 13th book, The Commentators' Al Hanissim : insights of the sages on Purim and Chanukah, vol. 1 Purim. This book continues his Commentator series. Rabbi Sender is a master teacher and Senior Rosh Yeshiva at HTC. This book examines the halacha and customs for Purim in the Tanach and Talmud in light of the writings of commentators such as Rashi; Elijah, the Vilna Gaon; Rambam and others. The book is lacking an index and a bibliography.

Muktzeh: a practical guide : a comprehensive treatment of the principles and common application of the laws of muktzeh, by Simcha Bunim Cohen. (Mesorah Publications, 1999) The author in his preface hopes that this book will meet the needs of both the newcomer and advanced Torah scholar. The footnotes not only have the bibliographic references, but also have extensive quotes of the Hebrew source texts.

Etymological dictionary of Biblical Hebrew : based on the commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, by Matityahu Clark (Feldheim Publishers, 1999) One of the most important contributions to the understanding of the Tanach made by Rabbi Hirsch has been to use the etymologies of words to understand the text. In this book Rabbi Clark arranges in alphabetical order, by roots, all the words that Rabbi Hirsch uses in his commentaries. Rabbi Clark, who is a lifelong educator and student of Rabbi Hirsch, lives in Jerusalem.

The Ancient Synagogue : the first thousand years, [by] Lee I. Levine (Yale University Press, 1999). This is a massive (748 pages) study which is a development of Professor Levine's teaching and research for the past twenty years. During this time he has edited and written articles on the history and archeology of the ancient synagogue. Professor Levine covers the archaeology, physical characteristics, and the social and communal roles of the synagogue. The bibliography and indexes cover 132 pages.

Professor Levine is a professor of Jewish history and archaeology at Hebrew University.

Footnote
1. The story was told by Rabbi Norman Frimer in his book, A Jewish Quest for Religious Meaning : collected essays. (Hoboken, NJ : Ktav Publishing House ; Washington, DC : B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundations, 1993)


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit our web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you.

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Last revised November 7, 2004