The holiday of Purim is a Jewish festivity and often one of the most popular Jewish holidays. Children and adults dress up in colorful costumes, exchange gift baskets, hold a traditional feast, donate money to the poor, and participate in communal readings of the Scroll of Esther, [a section of the Bible] in local synagogues.
The story dates back to the Fifth Century B.C., describing Jewish life in the capital of the Persian Empire at the time. According to Jewish tradition, the story takes place 70 years after the first Jewish exile and the destruction of the First Temple.
The scroll details an empire endowed with ethnical diversity and great fortune, and ruled by a king named Ahasuerus and his counselor Haman. After an encounter with a Jew named Mordechai, who refused to bow to Haman, Haman sent an order to exterminate all Jews in a single day.
Antisemitic beliefs against Jews are recounted in the scroll, as Haman says to Ahasuerus; “there is one nation dispersed between your countries, their rules and religion are different, and it is not worthwhile for the king to let them be [exist].” In our present time, Jews are scattered around the world in what is known in Jewish tradition as the “Diaspora,” and are still faced with hatred.
Haman had a problem with one Jews, Mordechai and used this to explain hatred towards all Jews. The phenomenon isn’t rare, and is found in various persecutions and blood libels throughout history. An act or a negative behavior of one Jew serves as an excuse for total annihilation.
The two main characters, “Esther” and “Mordechai” are not traditional Jewish names, and are derived from Persian and pagan sources (the goddess Ashtoret\Estahar and the God Morduch, respectively). The second name of Esther, (also known as her Jewish name) is Hadassah. This phenomenon of local name and a Jewish name is common in the modern-day diaspora, where parents choose to give their children two names, a secular and a religious one.
Queen Esther risks her life to expose Haman’s evil plans, standing up for her people, the Jews in face of the threat. The Jews at the time united and rallied along with Esther, praying and fasting in hope of a change in the degree.
Although the story ends on a good note, as King Ahasuerus rules that Jews are allowed to protect themselves from their attackers; the story is far from optimistic. There remains an uneasy atmosphere, where persecution of Jews in foreign countries has become the norm. This pattern is found repeatedly throughout Jewish history, where Jews live in fear from the next sudden pogrom or expulsion.
The holiday of Purim was declared to commemorate the miracle, where God saved the people of Israel from extermination due to their power of unity and prayer. It reminds us the strong fight for a national identity and to persevere in the face of antisemitism.
The holiday of Purim will be celebrated this year on March 11-13, 2017 in Israel and throughout the world, reminding Jews to stand strong in the face of antisemitism.
Source: News 1, Wikipedia, Daat
By: Roni Zedek