Purimâ€”G-d Remembers Israel
By Rabbi Barney Kasdan
In the late winter, we come to one of the most unusual holidays on the Jewish calendar called Purim. Even the name itself reminds us of some of the strange details of this ancient observance. â€œPurimâ€, translated lots or dice, commemorates the day of deliverance in ancient Iran. You remember the storyâ€¦it was at this time of year that a wicked tyrant by the name of Haman (boo!) cast the lots to appoint the day of destruction for the Jews. You see, this guy had a problem with Jews. There was a certain Jew by the name of Mordechai (yea!) who refused to bow before this pagan government ruler. What started as a personal offense against one Jew soon turned into a national vendetta as Haman vented against all Jews in the land. For his argument, Haman used some classic anti-Semitic sentiments as he tries to persuade the King:
â€œThere is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people, and they do not observe the kingâ€™s laws, so it is not in the kingâ€™s interest to let them remainâ€ (Esther 3:8).
Not exactly a time of pluralism and tolerance in Shushan. Haman figured if he didnâ€™t anger the King by pointing out the religious differences of Judaism, he could get to the Jews by accusing them of being unpatriotic. He seemed to be getting the ear of King Ahasuerus when something amazing happened. A plot was uncovered where some rebels were going to overthrow the King. Curiously, the person who overheard the plot and exposed it turned out to be the â€œunpatrioticâ€ Jew named Mordechai! Obviously, events had turned in favor of the Jewish community just as it all seemed so dark. Some would call this a coincidence, but to any Bible believer, there is no such thing as that. It has been said that a coincidence is where G-d does a miracle but chooses to remain anonymous. That saying would be a good theme statement for the entire holiday of Purim. The Book of Esther is the one scroll of the entire Bible where the name â€œG-dâ€ is not even in the text. Yet, the presence of our Heavenly Father is seen clearly to those who have eyes to see. Even in those dark days of ancient Shushan, G-d arranges for Mordechai to be at the right place at the right time. But that was not enough. How could Mordechai get the attention of the pagan King? We could also look at the â€œcoincidenceâ€ of a Jewish girl winning the Miss Shushan Beauty Contest to become part of the Kingâ€™s court. This girl by the name of Esther also happens to be the niece of Mordechai. The coincidences are beginning to add up! The Scroll of Esther retells the story of the ultimate deliverance of all the Jewish community in those days.
Every year at this time we are reminded of some of these vital lessons of Purim. We celebrate by joyously retelling the events of our deliverance from ancient tyrants. Yet, the same G-d of our fathers, the G-d of Mordechai and Esther, lives today as well. Purim is more than just a fun costume party and hamentashen. All of these customs are to remind us of our Father who still keeps His covenant today. This is great news for our people Israel! At a time when our people in the Land are going through an incredible trial, Purim should speak to us loud and clear. There are still the Hamans of the world seeking the destruction of the covenant people. How it must irk Satan (yes he exists according to the Bible!) to have the people of the covenant back in the land of our forefathers! The adversary surely knows that when Israel is blessed with the fullness of the promises, he is on the eve of destruction. Little wonder that Satan (Hebrew for adversary) is kicking and fighting with all that he has, including evil political powers who would gladly cooperate in the destruction of the Jews. Purim is a time of joy as we recount the deliverance of that past generation. How timely it is that Purim 5763 comes even as many are standing against modern Israel. Yet, that is the very point of the holy day. It is the same G-d who remembers His covenant and will complete His promise of Israelâ€™s ultimate redemption.
â€œSo these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and these days of Purim were not to fail from among the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendantsâ€ [Esther 9:28]. This year, letâ€™s remember because G-d remembers.
Chag sameyach! Happy Purim!