On Purim, we make a lot of noise when Haman’s name is mentioned. Where did this custom come from?
To gain some insight, let’s look at the Torah readings from Purim and Shabbat Zachor.
In the Purim morning Torah portion, we read the story of how Amalek attacked B’nai Yisrael at Refidim. In Shmot 17:14 God said to Moshe: “Write this as a remembrance in the Book (Torah) and repeat it in Yehoshua’s ears, for I will totally obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.”
This Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor, the Maftir is read from Devarim Chapter 25. In sentence 19 we read: “When HaShem your God gives you repose from all of your enemies around, in the land that HaShem, your God gave you to inherit, you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the sky; do not forget.”
In the Purim reading we see that God will obliterate the memory of Amalek. In the Shabbat Zachor reading, we are told to obliterate the memory of Amalek.
What can we do to obliterate Amalek’s name?
Since Haman is a descendent of Amalek, it makes sense to obliterate his name each time it is heard. Haman’s name is mentioned 54 times in Megillat Ester so that gives us the opportunity for a lot of obliterating!
How is this done?
In some communities all present at the Megilla reading would stomp on the floor or bang on a table.
In other congregations the children would draw Haman’s face on two stones and rub them together, thus erasing his picture.
Another custom was to make dolls or pictures of Haman and then burn them (that didn’t go over too well with the rabbis).
Today in most shuls noisemakers, groggers (in Yiddish) or raashanim (in Hebrew) are sounded each time that Haman’s name is mentioned.
Groggers actually have many other uses, aside from drowning out the name of Haman.
In the 19th century, before whistles were used by the police in England, they used police rattles which looked exactly like our groggers to make noise and get attention.
The grogger that we are accustomed to using today is a musical instrument called a ratchet.
It is also called a football rattle and is used for cheering at soccer games in England.
The fact that this object can also be used for music and celebration shows that when we are swinging them we are not only drowning out the name of Amalek, we are also cheering about the fact that the Jews were saved.