Sunday, March 6, 2011

What happened on the 13th of ADAR?

Academics have traditionally viewed the story of Purim as nothing more than a mythical story with no historical validity, however, in this article we would like to propose a possible piece of evidence which seems to indicate a tremendous political and military event took place in the Persian empire on the 13th of a certain month which had such a powerful effect that it continues to be a celebrated today as a holiday by the indigenous population. This holiday is the Persian Holiday of Sizdah Bedar (literally ''Sizdah-'' means thirteen, and ''-bedar'', means to get rid of, i.e "getting rid of thirteen". or to bedar (survive) something). This holiday is celebrated on the 13th day of the Persian New Year Noruz as a festive day where people celebrate by going OUTSIDE THEIR HOMES to parks and the outdoors.

The origins of this Persian holiday is somewhat unclear but has been celebrated as far as 536 BCE. Its origins are “unknown” but purported to be related to the Persian New years (Noruz) and the ancient mythical lore of casting the negative, mysterious and cursed status of the “unlucky 13”. Other theories also relate the holiday to mythical Zoroastrian beliefs regarding rain and water. Although some of these may in fact be true and somehow related to this holiday it does not explain what is being gotten rid or what were people surviving from. If the 13th is a negative cursed number and they are getting rid of it, why is the celebration taking place on the 13th? Shouldn’t they celebrate after the 13th has passed ? And more importantly why is it pertinent to celebrate OUTDOORS!!

For over thousands of years all Jewish communities around the world have celebrated the venerated and awesome holiday of Purim on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (or the 15th of Adar for walled cities). In Megilat Esther (Book of Esther), which is traditionally read on this holiday we are given the reason for the celebration of this holiday and why it is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar as follows: “Mordechai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus…..[charging them] to observe annually the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and its fifteenth day, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies …]” (Chapter 9 verse 20-22)

As indicated above, the main celebration of Purim from a Jewish perspective is the gaining of relief from their enemies who had plotted to annihilate the Jewish people on the 13th of Adar (Purim is not a celebration of a military victory but a celebration of gaining relief from being annihilated!). As the book of Esther shows the 13th of Adar was the day that Haman had planned and plotted to execute his final solution on the Jewish people and letters had already been sent to all the provinces and governors advising them for the preparation of the battle that will ensue on this day. However, as the events unfolded and this plot was unraveled by Esther and Mordechai a new set of executive letters had to be sent by the King to allow the Jews to actually battle their enemies on this auspicious day and defend themselves against their adversaries. Since these events were already advertised and expected to take place on the 13th of Adar every one was already notified to stay of the “war zones” well in advance of that inevitable day (in fact the letters were sent in the 23rd of Sivan, Esther 8:9 which was more than six months earlier). Therefore, on the auspicious day of the 13th there were only going to be two groups of people outdoors, either the adversaries who came out to battle the Jews or the Jews who came out to defend themselves and battle the adversary. This is clearly indicated by what is said in Chapter 11 verse 8 “that the king had given [permission] to the Jews of every city to organize and to defend themselves…and to exterminate every armed force of any people or province that threaten them”. In fact so much fear was in the streets that multitudes of people professed themselves Jewish (or converted) as it is said in the end of chapter 8. Therefore, the dread and fear of the 13th dooms day most probably kept the majority of the people confined to their homes and out of the ensuing battles between Haman’s sons and allies and the Jews.

Considering that the Persian new year is always in spring time and never deviates more than 2-4 weeks from the Jewish month of Adar and Nissan it would not be far fetched to say these two stories are related. The Jews commemorated these events by celebrating every year on the 14th for gaining relief from their adversaries from all the battles that had been fought on the 13th and the rest of population and the masses commemorated these events by celebrating every year on the 13th for the fact that the 13th bedar ghozast (gained relief from the battle of that day and not died) and they do so by GOING OUTDOORS as opposed to how they stayed confined to their homes on that dreadful 13th day of the month.

In light of the above, we can now shed additional light on another spurious custom generally celebrated on this holiday which does not fit well with any of the conventional theories on Sizdah Bedar. This spurious tradition is termed “Dorough Sizdah Bedar” or the “lie of the Sizdah bedar” and will usually involved telling a lie or pulling of a prank (in fact some have proposed that April Fools day actually originated from this old Persian Custom). But exactly what is this lie ? Why must a prank be pulled ? Looking at the proposed theory set forth above, we can now get a better insight into this less known tradition. The prank/lie originates from the very events of that day. Everyone was under the assumption that the Jewish Population would be attacked, defeated and annihilated in battle, but the reverse happened. This was most likely the percieved "prank" which set off the ensuing tradition to pull of a prank or tell a lie on the Sizah Bedar Holiday.

Yet again another peculiar allusion that further adds a connection between Purim and Sizdah Bedar is that upon careful observation of the very name of this holiday one can see “Sizdah bADAR” which can theoretically be read and translated in Farsi as Thirteenth of/in Adar. To actually read and translate the holiday this way, the “bedar” portion of the name would not read as a noun (which would mean get rid off or survive) but actually bADAR where b (which could either mean IN or FOR in Farsi) would be read as IN and ADAR would stand for the very month all these events took place. It is significant to point out that Jewish sources officially acknowledge that the names of many of the Jewish months (including Adar, Av and etc.) are actually of Babylonian origin. Considering these connections, it would certainly be possible that Adar was an actual month in both Persian and Jewish calendar and that the Persian New Year and New month on Jewish Calendar fell on the same date that year and that these two stories are directly related. If this were indeed so, it would provide a living testimony that something of historical significance and validity took place in ancient Persia at those times which involved both its political, Jewish and non Jewish population and that there might in fact be historical basis for the stories outlined in the book of Esther.

This article was researched and its theories have been proposed and written by Kamy Eliassi. The final allusion to the BAdar connection was beautifully derived and proposed by Eman Zadeh. Kamy can be reached at

What are your thoughts on this article ?