|Type||Cookie or pastry|
|Place of origin||Ashkenazi Jewish communities|
|Variations||Filling: traditionally poppy seed|
A hamantash (Yiddish: המן־טאַש homentash, also spelled hamentasch, pl. המן־טאַשן homentashn or hamentaschen, literally 'Haman pockets') (Hebrew: אוזן המן, ozen Haman, pl. אוזני המן, oznei Haman, literally 'Haman's ears') is a filled-pocket cookie or pastry recognizable for its triangular shape, usually associated with the Jewish holiday of Purim and Haman, the villain in the Purim story. The shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling placed in the center. Hamantashen are made with many different fillings, including poppy seed (the oldest and most traditional variety), prunes, nut, date, apricot, raspberry, raisins, apple, fruit preserves in a lekvar style, cherry, fig, chocolate, dulce de leche, halva, or even caramel or cheese. Their formation varies from hard pastry to soft doughy casings.
Name and symbolism
Hamantash is also spelled hamentasch, homentash, homentasch, homentaschan, or even (h)umentash. The name hamantash is commonly viewed as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. The pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people. The word tasche means "pouch" or "pocket" in German, and thus may refer to Haman's pockets, symbolizing the money that Haman offered to Ahasuerus in exchange for permission to destroy the Jews. In Hebrew, tash means "weaken", and the hamantash may celebrate the weakening of Haman and the hope that God will weaken all of the enemies of the Jews. Another possible source of the name is a folk etymology: the Yiddish word מאָן־טאַשן (montashn) for a traditional delicacy, corresponding to the German word Mohntaschen, the plural of Mohntasche, literally meaning "poppyseed pouch", was transformed to hamantaschen, likely by association with Haman. In Israel, hamantaschen are called oznei Haman (Hebrew: אוזני המן), Hebrew for "Haman's ears" in reference to their defeated enemy's ears.
The reason for the three-sided shape is uncertain. There is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Alternatively, the Midrash says that when Haman recognized the merit of the Three Patriarchs, his strength immediately weakened. Naked Archaeologist documentarian Simcha Jacobovici has shown the resemblance of hamantaschen to dice from the ancient Babylonian Royal Game of Ur, thus suggesting that the pastries are meant to symbolize the pyramidal shape of the dice cast by Haman in determining the day of destruction for the Jews. A simpler explanation is that the shape derives from traditional Jewish baking techniques in Central Europe for folding dough so as to form a pouch around a filling, also common for making dumplings.
The word "hamantash" is singular; "hamantashen" is plural and is the more common word form. However, many people refer to these pastries as hamantashen even in the singular (for example, "I ate a poppy seed hamantashen").
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- Purim, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, 'In this connection it may be mentioned that for the celebration of Purim there developed among the Jews a special kind of baking. Cakes were shaped into certain forms and were given names having some symbolic bearing on the historical events of Purim. Thus the Jews of Germany eat "Hamantaschen" and "Hamanohren" (in Italy, "orrechi d'Aman"), "Kreppchen," "Kindchen," etc.'
- Shurpin, Yehuda. "The History and Meaning of Hamantaschen". Chabad.org. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Lewinsky, Yom Tov (1958). Sefer Hamoadim. p. 154. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
- Gordon, Dave (April 8, 2011). "Filmmaker unearths mystery". Jewish Independent. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
- Rosenthal, Leonard (22 February 2013). "All about hamantaschen". San Diego Jewish World. Donald H. & Nancy E. Harrison. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
...that does not stop people from using the plural even when they are referring to the singular...