The name Purim means “lots,” which means absolutely nothing to my students. Lots? Lots of what?
Haman chose the 14th day of the month of Adar for his proposed genocide, a date determined by the casting of “lots.” Lots = Purim, lot = Pur. A pur is even weirder than a lot. Better to make this a hands-on lesson.
Last year, I gathered games of chance and divination to show kids different ways people have used tools to try to select something by chance or to predict the future.
Ideally, I’d have Haman’s own tools, but no one can be sure what those were, and my best guess—sheep or goat knucklebones (astragali, tali)—are not locally available yet. (See my post about knucklebones and my quest for a local source, here.) Until I have the real deal, I make do with the set I molded from polymer clay.
I put all my neat stuff on a Touch-Me display at our Purim Mitzvah carnival, along with signs about lots and chances and Haman and the name of our holiday. Everything had a tray and a label, and playing was encouraged.
Knucklebones on a tray (real or fake, but playable)
Fortune cookies (kids could take one)
Magic 8 Balls
Deck of cards
Jacks and ball on a tray
G-rated tarot cards
Letter tiles (I used English and Hebrew Scrabble tiles)
Bingo set (the kind in a spinning globe)
Prize Wheel, the bigger the better
If you can think of toys or tools I’ve left out, let me know and I’ll add them.
By the way, I considered animal entrails to give an example of augury, but until someone invents a vinyl reproduction, I’ll have to pass.