The Jewish festival of Purim starts at sunset tonight, so today before it starts is the time to prepare for Purim, which is all about the story of Esther in the Bible. It ends tomorrow at sunset so today and tomorrow all our readings will be from the book of Esther. From last night until sunset tonight the Jewish people are fasting.
Most people know about the Holocaust But you may not know that this wasn’t the first time someone tried to commit genocide of the Jews. There have been what the Jews term “Pograms” often over the centuries. But the one that would have been a genocide, long before WWII and the Holocaust happened in Babylon, thousands of years earlier.
The Jews were sinning in ways to horrible to think about and God could take no more of it, so he allowed the Babylonian Empire to destroy them, they burned Jerusalem to the ground and carried all those left alive away in slavery, while God looked away and grieved.
Babylon in is modern-day Iraq. It seems in every Arabian fairy tale there is an evil vizier and in the real life story of Esther the vizier was indeed very evil. Haman was the descendent of a long-time enemy of the Jews and once he reached power, made plans for their genocide. But God had not forgotten his children.
God saved his Jewish children through unusual means.....a righteous man named Mordecai and more importantly a young girl, his niece Esther. God took what she and her people would have considered an evil situation for her, and used it for good. The key to it being in the words of her Uncle Mordecai:-
Esther was “born for this”, she risked her life in obedience to God, to save her people, She was rewarded by God, and is remembered with honour by her people.
Purim is celebrated by reading out loud the story of Esther, it has all the drama and elements Hollywood looks for in a movie so they made one, we can watch the movie, “One night with the King”. Purim is celebrated like Christmas, festive and joyous with a big festive dinner, holiday candle-lighting and giving gifts of fruit and nuts with a couple of bottles of wine thrown in. Also making sure to give gifts to the poor. But it also has a somewhat Halloween feel, given the gruesome threat of genocide in the story and the culminating battle. Plus some Jews maintain the tradition of dressing up Halloween-style on Purim. They explains wearing costumes during Purim may pay tribute to Jews secretly practising their religion in times of persecution.
Special Purim Treat – Purim Cookies
I found a great recipe with pictures including the story behind the cookies (which of course involves Esther’s story) here. Nice to eat as dessert while watching the movie tonight after lighting the holiday candles.