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The megillah, or scroll of Esther, tells the story of the beautiful Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, or Myrtle. She was an orphan who lived with her wise cousin Mordecai in the capital city Shushan. When King Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes, 485-464 B.C.E.) deposed Queen Vashti, he chose Esther to take her place. Neither the King nor his wicked minister Haman the Agagite, knew that Esther was Jewish. Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews of Persia. Queen Esther, after fasting and praying for guidance, pleaded with the King and saved her people from destruction. Purim is the festival celebrated to commemorate this deliverance. The Fast of Esther is observed on the 13th of Adar in memory of the three days the Jews of Persia fasted at Esther’s request. The Scroll of Esther is read in the synagogue on the evening and the morning of Purim.

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