Jewish Holiday - Purim Special

Watch Rabbi Shmuel Bowman of Operation Lifeshielf (a partner with Song For Israel to build a bomb shelter in Israel) teach about Purim: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NEkKqU5vYA4]

The Jewish holiday of Purim (Festival of Lots) begins this Saturday night at sundown (February 23, 2013). It is one of the most joyous of all Jewish holidays, as they celebrate the deliverance of the Jewish people from annihilation in the ancient Persian Empire!

The Story of Purim

The story of Purim is recorded in the Book of Esther with three main characters: Esther, her cousin Mordecai and Haman, the evil man who plots to destroy the Jewish people. The Jewish people celebrate the fall of Haman, who came close to executing a plot to exterminate the Jewish people. Instead, the people were saved because of the heroic planning of Mordecai and Esther.

Haman was from the nation of Amalek and had authority over all the princes and the king’s servants bowed down to him. However, Mordecai did not bow because he was a Jew. This was a transgression of the king’s command (Esther 3:3). This angered Haman and he plotted to destroy all the Jews in the entire kingdom (Esther 3:6) and he accepts Haman’s counsel and hands over the fate of the Jewish People to him.  Haman then makes plans to exterminate all of the Jews. (Esther 3:8-11).

Esther, an orphan who had been raised in Persia by her cousin Mordecai, is a beautiful, young Jewish woman. When Vashti, the Queen of Persia, falls out of favor with Ahasuerus, King of Persia, Esther becomes Queen. (The king does not know she is Jewish).

Mordecai counsels Esther to save the Jewish People by courageously visiting the king and pleading on their behalf, telling her that she has probably risen to the position as queen for this very purpose. Esther took a risk and approached the king and planned a banquet for him and Haman. Going in to the king, of course, may seem like the logical thing to do, but it actually will put Esther’s life in immediate danger. Even though she is queen, she cannot come into the king’s presence without his first summoning her. She knows she may be put to death if she shows up uninvited. She fasts for three days before going to the king, and when she enters his presence, she finds his grace, instead of his wrath. (Esther 4).

Before the banquet, Haman prepared a gallow to later hang Mordecai for not bowing to him.

That night, the king could not sleep and he asked that the “book of records (Chronicles) be read to him. During the reading, he was reminded of some good deeds of Mordecai and realized he had not been rewarded for this. (Esther 6)

The next day at the banquet which Esther prepared for the king, and in Haman’s presence, the king asks Esther to name anything she wants. He pleads with him to save her people from annihilation. The king asks her to expose this evil man and she names him as their enemy. (Esther 7:1-6).

This angered the king and he ordered Haman be executed on the very gallows he prepared for Mordecai. (Esther 7). After that, the king elevated Mordecai to take Haman’s position of authority and the king reversed his decree and all the Jews were avenged (Esther 8:1-7).

The 3-Day Fast of Esther is a Jewish fast from dawn until dusk on Purim eve, commemorating the three-day fast observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim. (Esther 9). Purim is a holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the destruction planned by Haman. Although Purim is not included as one of the Biblical Feasts of the Lord, it is a custom mandated by Mordechai in Esther 9.

Purim Festivities

Traditional Purim customs include reading of the entire scroll of Esther in the synagogues. Because hidden identities is a strong theme in the Book of Esther, it is traditional to wear costumes on Purim and cheering at the mention of the hero and heroine, Mordechai and Esther, and booing the villain, Haman. (Boo!)

After the three-day fast, there is a feast with rejoicing and giving of gifts to one another and to the poor.  “He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:20–22).

In addition to giving gifts, a tradition is to eat triangular cookies called oznei haman (ears of Haman).

Oznei Haman or Ears of Haman Cookies

Oznei Haman or Ears of Haman Cookies

More than Just a Remembrance -- A Call to Action

While Purim is a time to remember God’s deliverance of the Jewish People from anti-Semitic forces in Persia about 2,500 years ago, it is also a time to remember that enemies have risen against the Jewish People in every age. Today President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of Iran vows to wipe Israel of the face of the earth. Once again anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head in Europe. It is here in America, but more subtle. Those that seek to destroy the Jews also have evil plans to annihilate all of God's people, including Christians. Purim is not just  a time to remember, but for believers to listen to the call of the Holy Spirit to rise up, like Esther, on behalf of Israel and the Jewish People.

It takes a lot of courage to resist the "Hamans" of this world and to stand firm against popular opinion here in the United States. We must stand for righteousness and stand for Israel. The Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 62:1) called upon the watchmen to cry out to God day and night on behalf of Zion (Israel). We as believers, are to be watchmen on the walls on behalf of Israel and the Jewish People, especially in these end times as multiple Hamans are calling for Israel's destruction.

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be silent, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,and her salvation as a burning torch.” (Isaiah 62:1)