The name “Hamantaschen” (Yiddish)

1. Hamantaschen are eaten in remembrance of the great hidden miracle of Purim. A hamantasch is essentially a cookie whose filling is hidden inside the dough, just as the miracle of Purim was hidden under the guise of nature. Until the destruction of the First Holy Temple, which occurred shortly before the time of Purim, the Jews regularly saw open, supernatural miracles. However, with the destruction began a period that lasts until today, where G‑d operates in a behind-the-scenes fashion, and His hand is not so apparent in daily events. The Purim story was the first time the Jews realized that the absence of overt miracles did not mean that G‑d had abandoned them. Instead, they realized that G‑d had a new modus operandi, as they understood how the Purim miracle was concealed and hidden within nature. Although an observer at the time might misinterpret the events as normal and natural political processes, every step of the Purim story was directed by the hand of G‑d. (Sefer Menuchah V’Kedushah 2:20)

...the Purim miracle was concealed and hidden within nature.

2. On Purim, G‑d used Haman, the very person who desired to destroy G‑d’s people, to actually bring about their salvation. Haman’s decree to annihilate the Jews caused a massive teshuvah movement and recommitment to the Torah, culminating in the hanging of Haman on the same gallows he had built to execute Mordechai. We eat hamantaschen on Purim, a sweet cookie named after the bitter Haman, to symbolize the v’nahafoch hu — the “turnabout”-- of how Haman and his evil actions turned into the source of sweetness and nourishment for Jewish survival. (Rabbi David Aaron, Endless Light, pp. 81–82)

3. Nowadays, hamantaschen are filled with all types of jellies, jams, and even chocolate. However, originally they were filled with either sesame or poppy seeds, designed as another method of fulfilling the custom of eating seeds on Purim (a whole other article-to-be — KOL). . Therefore, hamentaschen are effectively pocket pastries filled with poppy seeds. In Yiddish, poppy seeds are called "mohn," and pockets are called "taschen," revealing the source of the name mohn-taschen. Beginning with the custom of eating seeds, this pastry became a Purim mainstay because of the similarity of the word mohn to Haman both in pronunciation and in spelling. For this reason, the name mohn-taschen eventually evolved into hamantaschen. (Sefer Matamim, Purim 2)

4. The word tash in Hebrew means to "weaken." On Purim, we specifically eat the pastry hamantaschen because it means "Haman became weakened." This commemorates G‑d saving us by weakening Haman during the time of Purim, and in addition expresses the wish that G‑d should always save us by weakening the Haman's of every generation. (Otzar Kol Minhagei Yeshurun, 50:11, p. 126)

5. On Purim, we eat hamantaschen, a food that carries the name of Haman, because as eating destroys the food being eaten, we symbolically fulfill the mitzvah of destroying Amalek by eating Haman. (Sefer HaMoadim, vol. 6, p. 153; Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, BeMechitzas Rabbeinu HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, p. 142)

6. The Alshich explains that at first, the Jews did not believe that they were going to be completely wiped out. In an effort to convince them of the seriousness of the situation, Mordechai sent numerous letters to the Jews describing the true brutal natures of Haman and Ahasuerus. However, because Mordechai feared that the king might intercept these messages that painted him in an unfavorable light, Mordechai hid them in pastries, which he then sent to the Jews. These pastries saved the Jews, because when they found Mordechai’s letters hidden within the dough, they became convinced of the direness of the situation and were stirred to repentance. On Purim, we eat hamantaschen, a pastry that contains hidden filling, to commemorate how the hidden filling of Mordechai’s pastries brought about our salvation. (Sefer Menuchah V’Kedushah 2:20)

The name "Oznei Haman" (Hebrew)

7. "Oznei Haman" literally means "Haman’s ears." It commemorates Haman’s hanging, as there is an old teaching that Haman’s ears were cut off before he was hanged, a pre-execution custom that was practiced through the Middle Ages. (Sefer HaMoadim, vol. 6, p. 153)

Haman bent over in shame when he entered the king’s treasury to retrieve the royal robes and horse for Mordechai...

8. There is another traditional teaching that describes how Haman bent over in shame when he entered the king’s treasury to retrieve the royal robes and horse for Mordechai, just before he was to parade Mordechai through the streets. In describing Haman’s shame, the Midrash says that he was bent over with "oznayim mekutafot," meaning "clipped ears." From this description, many communities labeled these pastries prepared in remembrance of Haman’s downfall "Haman oyern," meaning "Haman’s ears" in Yiddish, to draw his shame into the commemoration. Apparently, each Jewish community that used this name translated it into the language of its host country. In Italy, for example, they were called "orrechi d’Aman," and eventually, the name was translated into the Hebrew "oznei Haman." (Purim V’Chodesh Adar 10:36; Sefer HaMoadim, vol. 6, p. 153; see also Targum Sheini, Esther 6:11)

The shape of “Hamantaschen

9. The three-sided shape of hamantaschen represents the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose merit helped saved the Jews on Purim by causing Haman to become “tash,” weakened. (Sefer Matamim, Purim 2)

10. Traditionally it is thought that the three corners of the hamantaschen are reminiscent of the three-cornered hats worn by Haman and those in the Persian court. These hats may have resembled the tri-cornered hats worn by Napoleon or George Washington. Hamantaschen were fashioned and baked into the shape of Haman’s hat to further the symbolism commemorating his downfall. (Sefer HaMoadim, vol. 6, p. 154)

[Compiled and adapted from Sefer Yemei HaPurim.]