Sunday, March 20, 2011
Why I Love Purim
Have you ever heard of Purim? Until a few years ago, I really hadn't. I may have heard the word, but I had no idea what it was. Then I found out I already knew the story of Purim; in fact, it's one of my favorite stories ever! If you have ever read the book of Esther from the Bible, then you know the story of Purim! My family and I now celebrate the joyous holiday of Purim. Here's why I love it:
Purim is the celebration of a real live "fairy tale", complete with a king, a girl who becomes a queen and her courageous guardian, an evil villain, and a happily ever after ending. Here is a very brief summary of the story of Esther (you can read it for yourself in the Bible):
Hadassah was a young Hebrew woman who lived in Persia in the 5th century B.C. Her Persian name was Esther. She, along with many of the young ladies in the land, was summoned to be brought before the king so he could choose a new queen, after the previous queen had been banished. (see, it already sounds like a fairy tale, but it's true!) Esther spent an entire year with the young women preparing for their appearances before the king. She was loved by everyone she met. And when she met the king, he loved her, too, and chose her to be his new queen. Esther had been raised by her relative, Mordecai, who had advised her not to tell the king of her Hebrew heritage. He also had become aware of a plot to kill the king. Mordecai told Esther, and Esther told the king. Mordecai had saved the king's life.
Enter the evil villain. Haman was a descendant of the Jew-hating Amalekites, and had made his way up to the most important position of influence to the king. Being an enemy of the Jews, he convinced the king to declare that anyone of Hebrew heritage should be destroyed. The day for this to occur was chosen by lottery (which is where we get the word "Purim", from the Persian word "pur", for "lot"). When Esther found out about this, she asked Mordecai to gather all of the Jews and have them fast, while she also would fast. After being encouraged by Mordecai that she had been placed where she was for "such a time as this", she decided she must risk her life and appear before the king unsummoned. The king accepted her appearance and her invitation for Haman and the king to banquet with her. Meanwhile, the king had decided that he wanted to honor Mordecai for saving his life. He asked Haman what he should do to honor a man who had pleased the king, and Haman (thinking it was himself) advised him to let the man wear royal clothes, a crown, and be paraded through the city on the king's horse for everyone to see. The king ordered this to be done for Mordecai, and Haman was mortified!
Time for Esther's banquet. At this banquet, she invited them to a second banquet, where she finally revealed her ancestry. The king was furious with Haman for attempting to destroy the family of his queen! He took away the signet ring he had given Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. He ordered Haman to be hanged on the very gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. Since his previous order for the Jews to be killed could not be revoked, he made a new order that they were allowed to defend themselves when attacked. On that day, the Jews prevailed over their enemies. Since then, a joyous day of celebration takes place every year on that day.
As decreed by Mordecai, this day is celebrated by feasting and joy, sending "portions" to one another, and gifts to the poor. Jewish children, and people of all ages, often have costume parties where they dress up like queens and kings, and the hero Mordecai. In Israel there are fun and festive Purim parades, puppet shows and parties.
Here's how my family celebrates Purim: We like to make "hamentashen" to enjoy and to give to our friends. Hamentashen are triangular cookies filled with a sweet filling. They represent Haman's hat, and they are delicious! We sometimes send gifts of food and yummy treats to friends and family who live far away. We donate money and items to charities. My husband reads aloud the "Megillah" (the story of Esther), and the rest of us use noisemakers and say "boo" every time we hear Haman's name. This is done to "erase" the name of Haman. Then we cheer every time Mordecai or Esther is mentioned. It's so much fun! We also like to watch the movie "One Night With the King", which tells the story of Purim so well.
Purim is a time to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. It is also a time to follow the example of Esther and Mordecai, and take courage! We can be brave and take whatever action God might require of us, for He will be with us. He gives each of us exactly what we need at precisely the right time, and he works in our circumstances to achieve his intricate plan. Purim is a time to remember that you may have been placed right where you are for such a time as this!