During the holiday of Purim, celebrated just last week, Jews around the world commemorated the salvation of the Jewish people from physical decimation. Because Haman had such great influence over Achashverosh, the Emperor of Persia-Medea (an empire that encompassed the vast majority of the then “known world”), this celebration was written into law for all Jews, for all time. However, throughout history, there have been other averted massacres – none on the grand scale of Purim – resulting in the implementation of various local Purim celebrations.

For the Jews of Narbonne, France, the 21st of Adar (1236) probably began as any other day. Then one Jew, unnamed in the annals of history, argued with a Christian customer in the course of his normal business dealings. In the midst of angry words, violence ensued, and the Jew fatally struck his adversary.

Fights and accidents happen. But, in Medieval France, a Christian death at the hands of a Jew had dire consequences. Thus, the Jews of Narbonne, who had started the day so normally, were soon confronted by an angry mob.

By the time the governor of the city, Don Aymeric, arrived, the riotous crowd had pillaged the property of the Jews of Narbonne. Before any physical violence ensued, however, Don Aymeric and his troops restored order to the city. Not only did he prevent a massacre, he even instructed that the Jewish property be restored to their rightful owners.

Thus, was one of the oldest local Purims, known now as Purim Narbonne, established.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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