Purim… Did you know?
In the early 1950s, Joseph Stalin, the ruthless butcher of millions of innocent people, had bloody plans for dealing with the “Jewish problem” in the U.S.S.R. Just as things were reaching a crisis point in 1953, he died… on Purim!
In 1990, Saddam Hussein of Iraq defiantly invaded nearby Kuwait. As pressure ramped up from the international community, his army began firing SCUD missiles into Israel. After the U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq, they were quickly victorious and the hostilities ended . . . on Purim!
What are we celebrating on Purim?
Here is a synopsis…
The Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he arranged a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, was chosen to become the new queen, though she refused to divulge her Jewish identity.
Meanwhile, the Jew-hating Haman was appointed Prime Minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed, and he convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar, a date chosen by a lottery Haman made (Purim comes from the word ‘Pur’ meaning ‘lottery’).
Mordechai gathered all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d for salvation. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At this feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity and urged him to subvert the decree. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed Prime Minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.
On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilised and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated. In the capital city of Shushan (a walled city), they took one more day to finish the job and therefore other walled cities (such as Jerusalem) celebrate Purim on the following day.
The 4 mitzvot of Purim
1. Reading of the Megillah (book of Esther), which recounts the story of the Purim miracle. It is read once on the eve of Purim and then again on the following day.
2. Giving money gifts to at least two poor people.
3. Sending gifts of two kinds of food to at least one person.
4. A festive Purim feast.
Wishing you all a wonderful Purim and I hope to see you at all of our Purim events!
Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman
PS Don’t forget to join us for our Purim celebrations. Click here for details.