One of the most popular customs for Purim is to drown out the name of the villain, Haman, with a noisemaker. In Hebrew, it is called a ra’ashan; in Yiddish, it is a grogger which comes from the Polish word for rattle.
The origin of this custom comes from the Book of Exodus 17:4: “For I will utterly blot out the
remembrance of Amalek from under the Heavens.” Haman’s ancestors were Amalekites.
There are records that children in France and Germany in the 9th century used groggers on Purim. They took flat stones or wooden paddles on which Haman’s name was inscribed and beat them together when Haman’s name was mentioned during the reading of the Megillat Esther. It was also popular to write Haman’s name on the soles of their shoes and then stamp their feet when his name was read, thus erasing his name.
Some form of grogger has been used primarily among Ashkenazic Jews since the Middle Ages. Today, the traditional grogger looks like the Hebrew letter dalet, a horizontal piece made of wood or metal with a rotating cylinder or tongue attached to a vertical handle, which, when turned, makes noise.
The custom of using a noisemaker during the reading of the megilla is more recent among Sephardic Jews.
One also finds groggers decorated with illustrations from the Book of Esther, plastic groggers with clapping hands, and designs in wood and metal. School children often make other containers of paper or metal and fill them with beans, so when they are shaken, they make noise.
Whatever grogger you use for Purim, just make sure you do it loud and often, for in each generation, a Haman has arisen to live among us.
By Sybil Kaplan
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, author, compiler/editor of nine kosher cookbooks and food writer for North American Jewish publications, who lives in Jerusalem where she leads weekly walks of the Jewish food market, Machaneh Yehudah, in English.