By JULIA BIRNBACH
March 12, 2017
“The story of Purim is also really important in today’s world. It tells the story of religious persecution and attempted genocide- issues that are clearly very prevalent today. It reminds us to stand up for who we are.”
The story of Purim takes place in Shushan in the Persian Empire.
The king, Ahasuerus, decides to host a big party, during which he gets drunk and commands his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear naked in front of his friends. Vashti refuses and so Ahasuerus dethrones her.
In a further demonstration of repulsive archaic patriarchy, King Ahasuerus decides to find a new wife by hosting a beauty competition. The women that he picks is a Jew named Esther (although he does not know she is Jewish), who is entered into the competition against her will.
Esther’s cousin and paternal figure, Mordecai, finds out about a plot to have Ahasuerus killed and reports it saving the king’s life.
Meanwhile, a misogynistic, anti-semitic man, and the villain of the story, Haman, is promoted to be the Prime Minister of Shushan. Ahasuerus decrees that everyone must bow down to Haman, but Jews are only allowed to bow down to God, so when Haman comes around, wearing an idol around his neck, Mordecai refuses to bow down to him.
Haman is infuriated and vows to get his revenge on Mordecai by destroying the Jewish people. He throws lots and determines this genocide will happen on 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Ahasuerus gives him the go-ahead and Haman starts notifying people of is plan.
Mordecai hears of Haman’s plan and appeals to Esther to help him stop it. At first, Esther doubts her ability, but eventually agrees to help her cousin save her people.
Esther invites Haman and the King to a feast. Afterwards, Ahasuerus hears that Mordecai saved his life, and so, he asks Haman, who is in the midst of putting up gallows to hang Mordecai, how he should honor someone. Haman assumes the King is talking about him, so he advises Ahasuerus to parade the honoree through the streets on a horse in fancy garments.
The King agrees, and much to Haman’s dismay, parades Mordecai through the streets. The next day, Esther invites the King and Haman to another feast and tells the king (after he’s had wine) that Haman is trying to kill her and all of her people, including Mordecai. The King is furious and orders Haman to be hung on the same gallows he built for Mordecai.
The Jews defend themselves from anyone who tries to carry out Haman’s evil plan, and, thus, the holiday of Purim was established. Purim means lots, commemorating the lots that Haman threw.
The message is similar to many other Jewish stories: they tried to kill us, we stopped them, let’s eat. But that’s something I’m really proud of as Jew.
Despite the intensity of the story, Purim is a really happy holiday. We dress up in costumes and hold carnivals. We eat Hamantashen, which are triangular shortbread cookies, with jelly on the inside, representing the triangular hat that Haman wore. And when we read the Megillah, which has the story of Purim in it, we shake graggers, or noisemakers, whenever we hear Haman’s name, to drown out its evil sound.
The Megillah tells us that to celebrate Purim, we must feast and rejoice, as well as give gifts to our friends and the poor. This means that every Jew is encouraged to give Mishloach Manot, which is a basket of food, to people in their lives and people in need. This is considered a mitvah or a good deed. The giving of Mishloach Manot is one of my favorite Purim traditions.
When I was younger, I loved it because it meant getting a basket of candy and Hamantaschens, but now, I really appreciate the act of giving to people you love as well as feeling like you’re giving back to people in need during a day of celebration.
Purim really is one of my favorite holidays. The message is similar to many other Jewish stories: they tried to kill us, we stopped them, let’s eat. But that’s something I’m really proud of as Jew.
Throughout history, and inevitably into the future, people have and will continue to try to persecute us. We make up less than 1% of the world’s population and have different views. This makes us a huge target for hatred. But throughout history and inevitably into the future, we have and will continue to overcome that hatred. We’ll stand strong and proud. And at the end of it all, we’ll celebrate, and of course, eat.
The story of Purim is also really important in today’s world. It tells the story of religious persecution and attempted genocide- issues that are clearly very prevalent today. It reminds us to stand up for who we are. It tells us that good, even when it’s the underdog, overcomes hate. It also talks about the power of individuals.
Purim is the only biblical story that doesn’t directly mention God’s name in it. God is alluded to, but never directly addressed. This is often interpreted as the fact that God is always there, but humans are responsible for taking control of their own destiny; they are powerful and capable and can accomplish what they set their mind to. This is so important to remember when combatting hate, oppression, or any obstacle.
Individuals are powerful and can make a difference.
Wishing everyone a very joyous Purim!