Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Purim - The Whole Megillah

"Summing up the Purim holiday in 10 words or less: They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat." Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Did you know there's a Jewish holiday that commands all Jews to get drunk? Plus dress up in outrageous costumes, pamper themselves, eat to excess and party into the night. (And college students think they invented that. Ha!)

The holiday is called Purim and it's being celebrated in Jewish communities all over the world today.

Of course there's more to Purim than eating and drinking. As with many Jewish holidays, it's a celebration of the Jews' escape from persecution and death.

You may know the story of Purim from the bible -- as The Book of Esther. Jews call it the "Megillah," which translates to "revealing the hidden." Unlike any other book in the Old Testament, The Book of Esther keeps God's intervention hidden, and never refers to God by name.

The Book of Esther--The Megillah--teaches that the hand of God is hidden everywhere, guiding our fate. That we are challenged and tested for a reason. That obstacles are in fact opportunities God gives us to help become better Jews, and human beings.

Esther was God's instrument of the Jews' salvation in the Purim story, a complicated tale of politics and intrigue that happened in Persia (now Iran) 2,300 years ago.

Here's the Cliff Notes version.

A military leader named Achashverosh usurped the throne and became King of the Persian Empire. Believing his empire responsible for the Jews' permanent exile, he called for an enormous party. The Prime Minister, a rabid anti-Semite named Haman planned an empire-wide pogrom to eliminate the Jewish people for good.

Esther, a religious Jew had been forced to become Achashverosh's Queen. She and her uncle Mordechai, a highly regarded religious leader, discovered Haman's treachery. Esther exposed the plot to the king.

Achashverosh, who had come to love Queen Esther ordered Haman and his co-conspirator sons executed. He also allowed the Jews to defend themselves against the plot already in motion. They emerged victorious.

On Purim we celebrate the fact that the hand of God guides us, even at times when we do not see open miracles or obvious Divine intervention.

So why the eating, drinking and celebrating? Why do we give money to the poor and gifts of food to our friends? To celebrate deliverance from physical annihilation. To promote unity among Jews. Because drinking dulls the intellect, it is another reminder of the physical threat to all Jews.

And finally, masks and costumes show that truth always lies beneath the surface, that the physical world conceals spiritual reality. By the way, there isn't a little Jewish girl anywhere who doesn't want to be Queen Esther on Purim.

The true meaning of Purim is to provide a path to God through love and joy.

And that's the whole Megillah.

The ABC's of Purim - Purim with Aish, Purim: The Miracle of Jewish Survival



Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless Israel and all the children of Abraham, raised from 'these stones'--Matthew 3!

10:45 AM  

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