The festive holiday of Purim commemorates Israel’s salvation from extermination by the mighty Persian Empire, some 2500 years ago. Jews in Israel and all over the world celebrate Purim on the 14th day of Adar (this year March 8th) as a time of “Light, Gladness, Joy and Honor for the Jewish people” (Esther 8:16).
Purim is a classic story of deep-rooted anti-semitism, pitting a powerful ruler (King Ahasuerus) and his vicious, arrogant advisor (Haman) against the Nation of Israel. Plans were drawn up for the “final solution” – wiping the Jews off the face of the earth. The word ”Purim” means lottery – referring to the method used to determine the fateful day set aside for the annihilation of the Jews.
A Complete Turnaround
Through a series of seemingly “random”, coincidental events, a prominent Jewish leader named Mordecai and his young cousin Esther (who was chosen to be the queen), orchestrated a complete turnaround of events resulting in the destruction of Haman and the survival and prosperity of the Jewish nation. As recorded in the Book of Esther (9:1) “And it was turned around, the Jews prevailed over their enemies”. This day was set aside as a special day of feasting and celebration for the Jewish people.
Why is God’s name hidden?
The Book of Esther is unique in that the name of God does not appear anywhere in the scripture. This was intentional, to teach us a very powerful lesson: All of those “random events” were actually hidden miracles – no less miraculous than the Ten Plagues and the Splitting of the Sea! Although sometimes God appears to be “hidden”, we recognize that He controls world events. Nothing is random. In fact, Esther’s name in Hebrew means “hidden”, as in “And I will surely hide (“as-thir”) My face on that day… “ (Deuteronomy 31:18). And that is why Jewish children (and adults too!) “hide” their faces by wearing masks and dressing up in all sorts of costumes. The message is clear: God may be hidden but we know that He is there!
How do we celebrate today?
To publicize the miracle, Jews read the “Megillah” (the Book of Esther) all over the world. And since the Jews were saved from physical destruction, the celebration is replete with “physical” activity – eating, drinking, singing and dancing. As expressions of friendship and unity, we “send delicacies to one another and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:22).
In every generation there is another Haman – out to destroy the Jewish nation. Whether it’s Hitler or Ahmadinejad – and the list goes on – those who curse Israel are doomed to destruction. And those who bless Israel will forever be blessed… (Genesis 12:3). As God’s exalted nation, Israel will survive and prosper – this is the true celebration of Purim!
Modern Day ‘Hamans’
Today, Israel finds itself surrounded by tens of thousands of modern day “Hamans”, otherwise known as the “freedom fighters” of Hezbollah and Hamas. These groups, along with the evil Iranian dictator, open calling for the destruction of Israel. Since its independence in 1948, Israel has suffered from acts of terror in the form of suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, rocket attacks and much more. While thousands of Israelis have been killed, many more victims of terror suffer daily from deep physical and emotional scars. Young children, teenagers and adults who have lost loved ones often suffer in silence.