Summary of Lesson Activities:
Make Hamantaschen (cookies- pronounced: HA-mahn-tah-shun). Learn about the festival of Purim (pronounced: poor-RIM) which commemorates the Esther story. [Note: 1st – 3rd graders visited this workshop.]
For scripture, background, and objectives, see above.
- Read the scripture for this lesson.
- Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
- Gather the materials.
- Parchment paper
- Cookie sheets
- Serving Spatula
- A pencil
- Cups – one per student
- Items in refrigerator: Jam & Hamantaschen dough (Note: dough must be cold – see end of lesson for recipe)
- One NRSV (New Revised Standard Revision) Bible
- For 3rd graders: Bibles – TEV or NRSV (& one purple Adventure Bible with tabs); Bible tab writing kit: tabs, fine-line Sharpie pen
- The picture book: Esther and the King
- Story paraphrase (see end of lesson)
- Rolling pins
- Chocolate chips
- Zipper sandwich bags
Before Start of Class:
- Wash one metal table.
- Cover two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- When 1st and 2nd graders visit, bookmark the NRSV Bible to Esther 4:14.
- When 3rd graders visit, distribute Bibles around the tables in the Social Hall.
Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Gather everyone around the tables in the Social Hall. Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Cooking Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults.
[Note: The Shepherd will quietly take attendance & do name tags while you are starting your lesson.]
Ask: What are some holidays that we celebrate that include food? (allow a few answers)
Has anyone ever heard of the Jewish festival called “Purim?”
Say: Purim is one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar. Purim commemorates the Old Testament story of a woman named Esther.
Ask: Has anyone heard of Esther?
Say: Esther was a heroine to the Jewish people. She saved the Jewish people from an evil man named Haman who wanted to wipe out all of the Jews. The festival of Purim is still celebrated by Jewish people every year in March. Today we are going to make special cookies that are made during the festival of Purim. These cookies are called Hamantaschen. When we make the cookies I will tell you about Hamantaschen. First, let’s hear a hint of our story.
Dig- Main Content and Reflection:
1st and 2nd grade:
Hold the NRSV Bible open to Esther 4:14.
Say: Esther is a long story but let me read what Esther’s wise cousin, Mordecai, said to Esther.
Read Esther 4:14b
3rd grade and up:
Ask: The Bible is divided into two sections, what are they? (Old & New Testament)
If we want to read a story that Jesus learned when he was your age, where would we find it? (in the OT)
Say: Our Bible story is found in the book of Esther. There is a whole book of the Bible that tells the story of Esther and how she saved her people.
Ask: If you have no idea where to find this book, what tool could help? (table of contents)
Have the kids find the book of Esther in their Bibles. It is a couple of books before Psalms. Remind kids that Psalms is about where you are in your Bible if you open it in half.
Say: Besides being divided into two testaments, the 66 books in the Bible are further divided into collections. The book named Esther is the last book in a collection of Bible books called “History.” The History books tell of the interaction of God with people in history – people we have learned about like David, and Elijah. Now we will hear about a woman named Esther. If you have your own Bible today, be sure you receive a tab for the History section of your Bible.
[Show the purple Adventure Bible with tabs. Have the Shepherd do tabs for students who bring their Bibles. Use the classroom Bible with tabs as an example. Ask the Shepherd to do both the HISTORY tab and the POETRY/SONG tabs.]
Have the students locate the key Bible verse Esther 4:14b. Explain how the “b” means we are reading the latter half of the verse. So starting with “Who knows? Perhaps you have…” Read this verse together.
For all students:
Say: Esther started out her life as just an ordinary citizen but then, she became the queen of Persia! Her cousin Mordecai is telling her: perhaps you have come to royal dignity… perhaps God planned for you to become the queen…for just such a time as this. It sounds like Esther has a choice to make. I wonder what that choice will be? Let’s make our cookies. While they bake I will tell you the story of Esther. We’ll want to come back to this verse we just heard.
In the Kitchen:
Wash your hands first and then have everyone wash their hands. Offer aprons if kids want to wear one.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Use flour to dust the table top, the rolling pins, even hands. (The dough will be sticky.)
Give blobs of dough to the kids. Have them take turns rolling out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. [Note: an 1/8 of an inch is pretty thin – encourage kids to keep rolling!] Use the cups as cookie cutters (they are 3” in diameter). Place four chocolate chips in the center of the dough. (Limit kids to 4 chocolate chips or there will be a mess oozing out! Traditionally the filling was poppy seed.) Bring the dough up to form a triangle, pinching dough well. [In later weeks of the Rotation have the students name the four characters in the story as they place the four chocolate chips- King Xerxes, Esther, Mordecai, and Haman. If they can name other characters in the story – such as Vashti – they can add another chip! Don’t do this exercise if you have allergy kids forced to use jam!
For those with nut & milk allergies: place a dab of jam in the center of the dough. Use a pencil to write kids names on the parchment paper by cookies made.
Say: These cookies are called Hamantaschen. Hamantaschen translates as “Haman’s hats” because they are supposedly shaped like the hat that Haman wore. Also by eating his hat, we are doing away with the enemy!
Bake for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Ask the Shepherd to time the cookies. Cookies are done when edges are golden brown. Cool before eating.
Back to the Social Hall – Storytelling, Discussion, and Eating:
While the cookies are baking, go back to the table in the Social Hall and tell the kids the story using the paraphrase.
[Note: As the Rotation progresses, children will become more familiar with the story. Allow the children to tell what they recall of the story. Add to their re-telling, fill in the gaps, and adding extra details or information from the background notes.]
Ask: How did Esther help save the Jewish people? (went before the king)
Why was this a brave thing to do? (no one could go to the king without an invitation; they might be killed)
How do you suppose Esther did such a scary thing? (allow a few answers)
Say: Esther actually prepared before going before the king.
Ask: Does anyone remember what she did? (she fasted & prayed for 3 days)
Say: Esther used fasting. To fast means not eating so as to focus on your pray time.
Ask: How can prayer help us to figure out what God wants us to do? (allow all responses)
Say: It can be hard to figure out what we should do in a particular situation. Prayer is a way to listen and talk to God. Perhaps your parent’s use the words: “check it out inside” or “listen to the voice within.” (From the book Parent Talk by Chick Moorman.) That is a way we listen for God.
Say: Esther was an ordinary girl. She didn’t know it, but God planned for her to be queen so that she could help save her people. Remember that verse we read: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” When her cousin Mordecai said that to Esther, it seemed to help her remember to have faith in God.
Ask: Have you ever found yourself in a scary situation where you trusted God or wanted to trust God? [Sharing something from your life would be helpful!]
How can God help you in that kind of situation?
What do we call believing in God when faced with a scary situation?
Say: If you believe in God even when faced with a scary situation, we call that having faith. Esther showed her belief in God, her faith, when her brave action saved her “family,” the Jews, from being killed. Her bravery is still celebrated by Jewish people on a special holiday every March called “Purim.” The story of Esther is told at this Jewish holiday.
When the cookies have cooled you may serve them. Have everyone eat only one cookie and take the rest home to share with their families. Tell them that they must also share the story of Esther when they eat the cookies at home. Encourage them to read the story in the Bible with an adult.
Say: Esther likely prayed a lot during those three days before she went before the king. We too can ask God for help by using prayer. Let’s close with prayer.
Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests. Use the Lord’s Prayer as the ending. A suggestion: “God, We thank you for the stories you have given us of your people – people who turned to you in faith. We thank you for showing us that no matter what happens you have a plan and you want what is best for us. Thank you for being with us always. Give us courage to trust you this week. (End with everyone joining in on the Lord’s Prayer.) Amen.”
Extra Activities (if you finish early)
Have the children help you clean up the kitchen.
Attachment: Story Paraphrase
For 1st – 3rd graders use with the book: Esther and the King. Read these words (not the one’s in the book) while showing the pages indicated.
-- Pages 4 & 5
Nearly 500 years before Jesus was born, in a far-off land called Persia, there lived a powerful king named Xerxes. Xerxes was lonely. He needed a queen.
-- Pages 6 & 7
In that same land lived Esther and her cousin Mordecai. They were Jews who were forced to live in Persia, among people who didn’t follow God. Though they were far from their homeland, they lived a comfortable life. Mordecai worked for the King.
-- Pages 10 & 11 (note: skipping a couple of pages)
To make a long story short…Esther, who had just been an ordinary citizen…she won a beauty contest and became the new queen! However, she did not tell the King that she was Jewish.
-- Pages 12
Now the King had made a man named Haman, his second-in-command. Because he was so important, everyone was required to bow before Haman. Esther’s cousin Mordecai would not bow down to Haman. Jews would only bow before God.
-- Pages 14 & 15
Haman was angry that Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to him. He hated Mordecai. When he found out that Mordecai was Jewish he hated all Jews. Haman made a sneaky plan.
-- Pages 16 & 17
Haman convinced the King to sign an order that said that all Jews would be killed! The King didn’t know that Esther was Jewish. Haman cast pur, kind of like rolling dice, to find the best date to do the awful thing he planned. And then he sent out the announcement to all the lands ruled by King Xerxes: “On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, kill all the Jewish people.” Mordecai heard about Haman’s plan. He mourned. All of his people, the Jews, were in danger!
-- Pages 18 & 19
Mordecai asked Esther for help. He wanted Esther to go to the King. At first Esther didn’t want to. She knew that if someone was to go before the king without being invited – they could die! But something that Mordecai said made her stop and think. “Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”
-- Pages 20 & 21
Esther was terrified. But she knew what she must do. She told Mordecai, “Please gather all the Jews together. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days. Fast and pray. Pray that God will be with me and protect us all when I go to speak to King Xerxes.” So for three days, all the Jews in town did nothing but pray. For three days, Queen Esther did nothing but pray.
-- Pages 22
On the third day, Queen Esther slowly walked to the throne room as she prayed to God to be with her. She reached the throne room. King Xerxes was frowning. But he saw that it was his lovely Queen approaching, and he smiled and held out his golden scepter. That meant that Esther was safe! The King asked her, “My dear wife, what can I do for you?” “Your Majesty, please come to a banquet I am preparing. And bring Haman.”
-- Pages 23
That night King Xerxes and Haman shared a fine meal with the Queen. “Now what can I do for you,” asked the King. “Please, both of you come again for dinner tomorrow night. I will tell you then what I wish.” So the next night they dined again with Esther.
-- Pages 24 & 25
It was at the second banquet that Esther told the king, “All my people will soon be killed. That man, Haman, has ordered that all the Jewish people be killed on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month!”
-- Pages 26 & 27
King Xerxes was furious. He ordered Haman to be arrested.
-- Pages 28 & 29
King Xerxes made Mordecai his new second-in-command. King Xerxes also granted the Jews the right to defend themselves. The good news soon spread throughout the land and on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the Jews triumphed over their enemies.
-- Pages 30 & 31
The Jewish people were saved! And so, to this day Jews celebrate a festival called Purim. At this festival held every spring, they remember Queen Esther’s bravery and God’s faithfulness to those who ask for help.
Recipe: Hamantaschen (makes about 4 dozen, 3 inch cookies)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 1⁄2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
2 eggs, beaten (for egg allergy use egg substitute)
4 tablespoons pulpless orange juice
1 cup margarine or butter (for dairy allergy use soy-based margarine)
Chocolate chips (the traditional filling is poppy seeds; jam can be substituted)
Preheat oven to 350. Sift or mix well the three dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. Mix together the eggs and juice; add to flour mixture. If too sticky, add a little more flour. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1⁄2 inch round cookie cutter. Put 1⁄2 tsp. filling (jam or chocolate chips) in center of circle. Shape into triangles by bringing sides up to the center and pinching them. (Pinch dough well so will not open during baking.)
Bake on cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Cool on rack.
- Crane, Amy. Retired “Rotation.org Retired Writing Team Lessons on Esther: Drama.” 2002 (for story paraphrase).
- Denton, Janet. “The Story of Esther: Cooking.” 2002.
- Moorman, Chick. Parent Talk. Merrill, MI: Personal Power Press, 1998.
- Pulley, Kelly. Esther and the King. Grand Rapids: Zonderkidz, 2007.
A lesson written by Carol Hulbert for First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2008 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material
If you use this material, even in a modified form, please include the following reference:
Hulbert, Carol. "Esther: Cooking Workshop ." Dec. 2008. Place URL where lesson found inside angle brackets<>.
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