Purim

 

 

The Holiday of Purim - February or March

It is said that anyone who enters into the month of Adar on the Jewish calendar, enters into a great amount of joy.  Adar is the month in which we celebrate Purim.

Purim is a silly time with a serious message.  The holiday is based on the Biblical Book of Esther, which describes how the Jews of Persia were almost massacred, but were saved in the last minute.  Since the Persian Empire extended at that ancient time from India to Ethiopia, this included most of the Jewish people.  The word “Purim” means “lots,” because Haman, the wicked Persian Prime Minister, drew lots to decide on which day the Jews would be massacred.  He chose a particular day in the month of Adar. But because of the actions of Mordecai and his niece, Queen Esther, the Jews were saved.  From then on, the day that had been chosen for grief and mourning has been a day of joy and celebration.

Jews celebrate this change of fortune, with great joy and silliness, on the anniversary of the very time that was supposed to be so terrible.  We read the Book of Esther and make lots of noise every time Haman’s name is read, in order to drown out his name.  We often wear costumes during the service and do silly things that would not be appropriate at any other service on any other day.  There is feasting and revelry, giving charity and sending gifts of food, and all sorts of merriment.

Although the story of Purim is set in the Persian Empire more than 2000 years ago, it has a message Jews have been able to hear in every generation.  It is the story of a Jewish community living in exile, scattered in different parts of the world, and subject to the whims of whoever happens to be in power at the moment.  It speaks to the precarious situation of Jewish communities in most parts of the world throughout most of our history.  But the holiday celebrates that we overcame these difficulties and continued to thrive.  In that sense, Purim is a holiday with an important message everyone can appreciate.

Purim is a strong and joyous affirmation of life even in the face of threat and difficulty.  Whatever has happened, and whatever might happen, we should celebrate that we are here and we are alive.  All peoples and every individual can see their own life stories in this message – all of us, whether 2000 years ago in Persia, or today wherever we find ourselves.