A bit of Gragger History
In thinking about Purim this year, I was curious about the origins of the gragger. We are taught that we use graggers during the megilah reading when we hear Haman's name, as a way of fullfilling the Biblical comandment to "blot out the remembrance of Amalek" (with the connection that Haman was a decendent of the Amalakites).
The word gragger comes from the Yiddish word for rattle or noise maker (which is thought to come from the Polish word "grzégarz"). Interestingly the modern english instrumental term for the graggers we commonly use today is "rachet" and the Hebrew term is "ra'ashan" (from the word ra'ash, which means noise).
But where did the tradition of using graggers (or noise makers) during Purim originate?
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia (circa 1906) groggers originated in thirteenth century France and Germany, where Rabbis there interepreted the commandment about wiping out the memory the Amalakites to mean, "even from wood and stones." They therefore:
"introduced the custom of writing the name of Haman, the offspring of Amalek, on two smooth stones and of knocking or rubbing them constantly until the name was blotted out. Ultimately, however, the stones fell into disuse, the knocking alone remaining"
This summer as part of thier Take Home Project, Machon made Purim groggers out of CDs, wooden spoons, pipe cleaners and beads. In a twist on the traditional gragger, they decorated the CDs with causes or ideals that people should be reminded to stand up, speak out or make noise for on Purim