“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century (quote source here).
As I was looking over a pile of books on a bargain bookshelf the other day, I came across a book titled, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.” What struck me the most about the title was it’s proximity to my stay in the city where I have been living now for almost exactly two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights as of this week. In fact, it runs right through the start and ending of the annual Jewish holiday and celebration known as “Purim.”
I’ve written about Purim several times on my other blog, and the last blog post was published a year ago titled, “Celebrating Purim 5778-2018.” Purim is a joyous celebration commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot by Haman, a vizier in the Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus, had been formed to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Old Testament Book of Esther.
An article published in JerusalemOnline,com on March 17, 2017, titled, “What is the significance of the Purim story for our times?” by “Admin,” states the following:
In every generation, there is a Haman that rises who seeks to exterminate the Jewish people. For this reason, the Purim story is timeless throughout the generations.
The Talmud declares, “When we enter the Adar month, we increase in joy.” Indeed, there is good reason to be joyful during the Hebrew month of Adar for it is during this month that the Purim story takes place. On this holiday, which Jews around the world are celebrating today, the great grief that the Jews of Persia experienced was transformed into a day of happiness and celebrations. Haman cast lots in order to determine which would be the best time in order to exterminate the Jewish people. He determined because Moses died in Adar, the Jews would not have luck during this month. Therefore, he planned for a genocide to occur during this month. However, he also forgot that Moses was born during Adar. In the end, his plot ultimately failed. For this reason, we celebrate….
But one might ponder, what is the significance of the Purim story to our times? We are living thousands of years after the Purim story occurred. Israel is now a state. Jews around the world now have a place to call home. In most countries, Jews are no longer living as a member of a persecuted minority group without a place to call home. In the West, Jews have been granted equal rights. And even the few remaining Jews in the Islamic world who don’t enjoy equal rights always have the option of making Aliyah. The Jews are in a better place today. So why is the Purim story still relevant for us?
The message of the Purim story is timeless for throughout Jewish history, there has always been those who wish to annihilate the Jewish people. If one listens to ISIS, Iranian and Palestinian media outlets, genocidal intentions against the State of Israel are broadcast routinely. Common themes in the propaganda orchestrated by these entities are that the Jews are not obeying the king’s rules and therefore must all be killed, just as Haman argued thousands of years ago. And not too long ago, Hitler was in power and committed the worst genocide against the Jewish people in human history. There are people who survived the Holocaust that are still alive. Indeed, in every generation, there are Hamans’ who seek to annihilate the Jewish people. However, like during Purim, the Jewish people always manage to survive and persevere despite all of the obstacles standing in their way.
Due to the victory of lightness over darkness, Purim and the entire Adar month is a joyous time. According to Jewish tradition, the excessive joy that the Jewish people experienced during Purim surpasses the happiness that Jews had experienced during other incidents throughout history for during Purim, the Jewish people were at an all-time low and G-d’s miracles were hidden from the masses. They lived in complete darkness. They were exiled from their ancestral homeland, the Jewish Temple had been destroyed, and thus Jews were no longer witnessing the miracles that were performed daily in the Jewish Temple. A king reigned who held a festive banquet where tools that were utilized in the Jewish Temple were displayed in a disrespectful manner. As the Book of Esther relates, the Jewish people at the time of the Purim story were scattered and divided.
Nevertheless, in this atmosphere, the hidden miracles of the Purim story occurred [Note: including how it came to be that Esther was chosen as queen]…. And all of these hidden miracles enabled the salvation of the Jewish people. Despite the dire state that the Jews of Persia found themselves in, the Jewish people held onto their faith and managed to succeed in preventing genocide on the 14th and 15th of Adar due to Esther’s ascendancy to the throne. It was a complete reversal from darkness into light, mourning into joy and death into life. As recorded in the Book of Esther (9:1) “And it was turned around, the Jews prevailed over their enemies.” They managed to do this by uniting as a nation and returning to the faith of their ancestors in droves. Thus, Purim teaches us an important lesson today. Whenever the Jewish people are united and follow their faith, no enemy can defeat them. Therefore, today if we remain united and follow G-d’s laws, the modern day Hamans’ can conspire but all of their plots will ultimately fail. (Quote source here.)
How Purim relates to Christians
First and foremost, Purim is a story of God’s faithfulness. The Book of Esther recounts His faithfulness to the children of Israel when they are threatened by the second most powerful man in the ancient Persian Empire—Haman. The lesson is simple. God is faithful to all His.
It also is about God turning bad situations into blessings. Because of the Jewish people’s faithful prayers and fasting, Queen Esther is given the courage to intervene with the king and disclose Haman’s plans to wipe out the Jews. In a declaration, the king gives the Jews the right to defend themselves and rob their attackers.
In spite of relying on divine leadership and strength, God isn’t mentioned once in the Book of Esther. This reminds many of us that faith in God has nothing to do with religion as much as it is a personal devotion to the Lord that should so infiltrate every part of our lives. Esther and Mordecai didn’t need to openly announce that they were depending on God. Doing so was so much a part of who they were that it would have been obvious to those who knew them.
In Israel, Purim is marked by dressing up in costumes, a universal symbol of merrymaking, and holding grand parties. While not the biggest or most important of Israel’s holidays, it is without question the festival that is most noticeable and accompanied by the most public merriment. (Quote source here.)
Purim is a celebration of God’s faithfulness and deliverance, and God’s faithfulness and deliverance extends to Christians, too. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Those of us who are Christians can celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim along with the Jews not only because of God’s faithfulness and deliverance in their lives and throughout the history of the Jewish people, but also because of God’s faithfulness and deliverance in our own lives, too.
So, with Purim only a couple of days away, let’s celebrate, because for those who truly believe . . .
God . . .
Is . . .
Faithful . . . .
YouTube Video: “Celebration” (1981) by Kool and the Gang: