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Esther's presence in the king's palace enabled her to advocate on behalf of the Jews, and gain a reversal of Haman's decree to annihilate the Jewish people.This series of miraculous events is recorded in the biblical Scroll of Esther, and commemorated each year on the holiday of Purim.Is it just a non-Jewish carryover, or are there Jewish sources for the practice?
It is important to remember that your opinion on how (un)deserving of ridicule or hatred a given political group is has nothing to do with whether it should be listed here; this is merely an index of how the group is treated in popular culture.This difference becomes most striking in our attitude towards money. But whereas Greece would see it as a means of spending more on ourselves and enjoying higher pleasures, Israel rightly saw it as a means towards a higher ends.The Sages teach us that our patriarch Jacob, on his return to the Holy Land, endangered his life (at least slightly) to retrieve small vessels he had left behind (Talmud Chullin 91a).There is a law that we may not make use of the light of the Chanukah candles for our own needs (Shulchan Aruch O. As a reminder of this law, parents would give their children coins on Chanukah, enabling them to observe the law of not counting them in front of the candles.One thing which is clear from all the above reasons is that the Jewish custom is (and has always been) to give money, not presents.
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The key difference was that Greece subordinated the spiritual to the physical. They appreciated spirituality and wisdom only in that they afforded man higher pleasures.