Hamantashen

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Why do we eat Hamantashen on Purim? It does not seem to be an ancient practice. According to the following sources, admittedly fairly old, the pastry was a pre-existing food into which we were able to read religious significance.

Jewish Encyclopedia (link) states:

In this connection it may be mentioned that for the celebration of Purim there developed among the Jews a special kind of baking. Cakes were shaped into certain forms and were given names having some symbolic bearing on the historical events of Purim. Thus the Jews of Germany eat ” Hamantaschen” and “Hamanohren” (in Italy, “orrechi d’Aman”), “Kreppchen,” “Kindchen,” etc. (comp. Steinschneider, l.c. [“Monatsschrift,” 1903] xlvii. 177, 360 et seq.).

Otzar Dinim U-Minhagim (p. 336 – link) states:

For Purim we bake cakes with three corners filled with sesame seeds and call it “Haman-tash.” It is shaped like Napolean’s hat and they think that Haman wore a similar hat in his role as the top minister in Achashverosh’s kingdom. The sesame seeds commemorate the ten thousand silver coins he promised to give to the king’s treasury. It may also hint to the three Patriarchs whom Haman saw and lost strength, as told in the midrash… It is also possible that “Haman-tash” derived from “Man-tash” (sesame pocket).

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

2 comments

  1. “Man” means poppy; what we have here is likely a folk etymology.

    Of course, in Israel the name is a bit more…evocative.

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