Yes, and we have historical documents to prove it. From Sundown March 6 to sundown March 7, 2023, the Feast of Purim was celebrated.
This celebration’s origin is recorded in the Book of Esther.
For those of you who have a bible nearby or can access an online bible, I encourage you to read or re-read the story of Esther– it is a mere 10 chapters– and each time you read it you will discover something new. Researching commentary on it from credible sources, Jewish and Christian alike will enlighten you even more about the messages of the book.
The Book of Esther is unique in that God, or any direct reference to Him, is missing. However, the Jewish identity and faith of both Esther and Mordechai are evident. As well, no mention of Jerusalem, Judea, or the land of Israel is included in the story.
But what we do know is that during Esther’s time, Jews were returning from exile to Jerusalem, and we are a few generations after Daniel was first made captive with his counterparts and taken to Persia.
We can spend HOURS discussing the messages, insights, and revelations the Book of Esther has for God’s plan, His timeline, His activities in history, human nature, the fortitude of the Jewish people, and more.
But what I want to draw out is a direct connection between the happenings in this book to modern-day antisemitism that we see happening.
Mordechai was well assimilated into Persian culture. He was high up in the ranks of society, having a Persian name, dressing in Persian clothes, and enjoying Persian life as he was respected and engaged in Persian commerce and government. We also surmise that he didn’t hide his Jewish identity, but he didn’t flaunt it. This posture in life seems rather like many Jews and Christians of today who move about society, rising in its ranks, and not hiding but not flaunting their faith.
We also know he told Esther NOT to reveal her Jewishness when she went to live in the palace, per her uncle, Mordecai’s, directive. So, for this, we need to think that perhaps he had an inkling or nudge from the Spirit that Esther needed to hold back some information about herself.
We normally don’t tell our children to hide their faith, but rather to proclaim it in all we do. Yet, we can all realize there are times when we should observe and remain silent. To learn and gain wisdom—so long as we don’t actively have to do or say anything that contradicts our faith.
A careful reading of Esther and a study of the timeframe, we can identify two types of antisemitism evidently:
- Assimilation: The first is the dislike of Jews based on their identity, but it can be quelled through assimilation. That is, if a Jew casts off his or her Jewishness and adopts the culture of the day, the Jew is no longer hated but accepted. We see this type of antisemitism throughout history, and very evident in Replacement Theology when the Church demanded conversions or in the modern day when Jews are to stay in step with the progressive culture. Martin Luther was a prime example. He spent decades befriending the Jewish communities in Germany and communed with Rabbis often. But when his message of Jesus and conversation was rejected, his ire was spurred. He was also becoming mentally unbalanced later in life writing and often vilifying the Jews. (His wife Katherine begged him to not send the letters vilifying the Jews. She knew he was not in his right mind and this public and documented sentiment of anger and hate towards Jews was not a good thing). We know Hitler used Luther’s writings centuries later to convince the German population of his bias and ultimate form of hate against the Jews, leading to the second form of antisemitism.
- Extermination: Jewishness is an inherent taint, genetic at its core, and no conversation or assimilation of the Jew can be accepted. This is what we see manifested in Hitler’s final solution. We also see this evident in fundamental Islamic doctrine and we see it in the writings and sentiments of modern-day Palestinian leaderships including the PA and Hamas and Hezbollah. To hate the Jew for no specific reason and demand its annihilation. This is the darkest and most sinister spirit of hate. Haman, the antagonist in the Story of Esther held this type of antisemitism.
What can we learn from this?
In the book of Esther, Jews in Persia were enjoying the culture and lifestyle. But when they were targeted and overtly persecuted, Mordechai dressed in traditional Jewish mourning garb and went public with his Jewishness. He took his faith from being a background element of his personality and character to being an objective he needed to share. And he told Esther to go to the king, reveal who she really was, and petition for her people.
Esther also rose to the occasion. She took on the role of a spiritual leader asking for fasting and praying for her petition to the King—a petition that could get her killed, but she took on willingly. Her actions had a two-fold danger. First, she breaks the law (punishable by death) that one cannot go to the King; one must wait to be summoned to the King. And second, she reveals she is a Jew and subject to the death warrant decreed by law.
So we have learned that when things are good, we go along and enjoy the ride. And when things get bad, some people will need to rise and stand for their faith and for what is true and just—even at our own peril.
Today, thankfully, we see actions like this (in less dire ways) with celebrities, sports figures, coaches, and some political and media types. When a crisis arises, suddenly secular figures become outspoken about their faith and identity. While the UN, CNN, and many celebrities and politicians condemn Israel or the Jewish people, prominent Jews, and Christians, will speak up and work hard and challenge the hate even if they risk scorn and career-ending reactions.
God may be orchestrating history and His hand is behind all things, even things that seem evil and dire, but he will use people to reveal his own outcome.
We learn that we still MUST DO, and to DO at the right time so we can act in HIS will. We cannot sit back and stay observers. Prayer has its time and place (and to be without ceasing), and so does action. Yet, discernment is necessary.
Esther and Mordechai worked within the system to effect a change. And while King Xerxes was not able to un-do his orders, he offered the opportunity for Jews everywhere in the kingdom to fight for their survival—which they did and won.
God’s work expects our actions—even when our actions may seem daunting to us—to make us vulnerable to derision, cancellation, or even death. But we also know God can and does turn those tables.
Antisemitism is age-old, but God’s hand and his People endure. And Purim is a recognition and celebration of this.
Shavua Tov, have a great week.