Many years ago, the king of Persia was named Ahashverosh. One day he decided to have a feast with all of his friends and advisors. He decided that his queen, Vashti, should come and dance at the feast. Queen Vashti refused. She didn't want to dance in front of all of the king's men, or appear before them to demonstrate her beauty. The king was furious and banished Vashti.

As time passed, the king wanted a new queen. He held a beauty contest and invited all of the eligible girls in the kingdom. The winner was Esther, and she became the queen. Esther was Jewish, but her uncle Mordechai, who raised her, warned that it could be dangerous to reveal her religion to the king. In fact, he told her not to tell anyone in the palace that she was Jewish.

Bad Advice

The king's chief advisor was a man named Haman. Haman was a wicked and vain man who expected everyone to bow down to him. Mordechai refused to bow because Jews only bow before God. Haman was furious.

Haman decided to destroy the entire Jewish people in Persia. He went to the king and told them that the Jews didn't follow the king's laws, and eventually convinced the king to go along with his plans. Haman cast lots (or Purim in Hebrew) to determine the day of annihilation, and constructed a gallows.

Upon learning of Haman's evil plot, Mordechai tore his clothes, wore a sackcloth and ashes, and walked through the city crying loudly. He came to Esther to appeal to her, begging her to speak to the king on the Jews' behalf. Esther was nervous--clearly the king had gotten rid of his last wife when times got tough. But she eventually agreed to appear before the king and instructed Mordechai to organize a three-day fast for all the Jews. She believed that fasting would help their prayers be heard.

Salvation Through Libations

After completing the fast, Esther entered the king's inner court dressed in her most royal garb. The king asked Esther what she desired--he would give her anything she wanted. Esther replied that she only wished to invite the king and Haman to a banquet. They accepted. The king was a lush and Esther knew that she would have an easier time getting what she wanted out of him if he was drunk.

After the feast, Esther asked the king and Haman to return for another banquet the next night. Haman left the banquet filled with self-importance.

At the end of the second banquet--when everyone was good and sloshed--Esther told the king of Haman's evil plan and revealed that she herself was Jewish. The king was furious that anyone would try to kill his queen. Consumed with anger, he ordered that Haman be hanged on the gallows intended for Mordechai. And thus, the Jews were saved.

Can't get enough Purim? Watch our video to see how a couple of puppets celebrate Purim, check out some books, music, and crafts that can get you in the spirit, and take Mayim Bialik's advice on how to make Purim costumes on the cheap.