On Monday evening, March 6, Jews worldwide will begin the celebration of the holiday of Purim.
Purim commemorates the victory of the Jews over an evil man named Haman who wanted to wipe them out. Purim is a different kind of holiday for many reasons. The most significant difference is that Purim is a holiday for political junkies… it’s full of political intrigue and people representing themselves as something they’re not— just like politics.
On Purim, we read the Megillat Esther, “The Scroll of Esther,” the firsthand account of the events in Persia long ago. It was written by the heroes themselves: Esther (whose real name was Hadassah) and her Uncle Mordecai, who raised her as if she was his daughter.
Mordechai’s unconventional approach was how he compelled Esther to hide her Jewishness.
Megillat Esther is where the expression’ the ganseg megillah” (the whole Megillah” comes from. Sorry for you cartoon fans. While it sounds similar, Megillat Esther has nothing to do with that old cartoon Magilla Gorilla.
Purim occurs during the Hebrew month of Adar. Haman decided the attack should happen during the Jewish month of Adar. He thought Adar was perfect because it must be bad luck for the Jews. Haman because that was the month Moses died. But like most people of the evil persuasion (and the mainstream media), Haman thought he was more intelligent than everyone else. Haman’s hubris stopped him from examining the entire month. Moses died in Adar, but he was also born in Adar. Therefore, when they describe the month, Jews say, “When Adar comes, joy increases. That’s Joy as in happiness, not as in the nasty host of The View.
The short version of the Purim story starts with King Ahasuerus’s feast. History verifies that when he displayed his riches and had a six-month festival, it was also a strategy session for his impending invasion of Greece. Secular history tells us that he began the invasion soon after this party, around 481 BCE. Many Jews, still living in Persia, decided to attend the party, despite the Temple vessels’ use from conquered Jerusalem as part of the celebration. Many Jews put a mask on” to live in Persia and fit in with their Persian neighbors,’
Mordecai, the uncle, and guardian of a beautiful young Jewess named Hadassah (nothing creepy happened between the two). Mordecai discovers a plot to kill the King and informs the royal guards. The plot is foiled, and King Ahasuerus is grateful.
Soon after he saved the King, Mordecai saw and refused to bow down to the royal vizier Haman. Jews only bow to God. But Haman was outraged at what he believed was the affront of not getting a bow. He asked his boss (the King) for permission to use Persian forces to kill all the Jews in the Empire.’
His excuse to the King was the Jews were disloyal (kind of like Rep. Omar’s comment about Israel supporters having a dual loyalty), one of her many anti-Semitic tweets and statements. Despite her Jew-hating statements, Omar claims she supports American Jews and Israel. In Feb. 2023, Omar masked hr public behavior. She co-sponsored a resolution “recognizing Israel as America’s legitimate and democratic ally and condemning antisemitism.” In other words, she was representing herself as something she was not.
Back to Purim, the King grants Haman his wish.
Haman chose the exact date for the massacre in Adar by drawing lots. That’s how the holiday got its name (the Hebrew word for lots is Purim). The day he drew was Adar 14.
While Haman was designing his evil plan, the King decided to “fire” his queen because she wouldn’t dance naked in front of his friends. There wasn’t late-night cable or internet porn those days, so I suppose they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
The King holds an empire-wide beauty pageant to fill the empty queen job. Mordechai convinces Hadassah to compete, but first, she must hide her Jewishness. Hadassah wins the pageant and becomes the new queen. During the competition, however, she changed her name from Hadassah to Esther, a Persian name, to hide her Jewishness.
Skipping to the end, Mordecai tells Esther of Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews and urges the new queen to ask the King to remove his permission. The problem with Mordecai’s plan was that trying to see the King without permission could cause the King to deliver a death sentence. Interestingly today’s Persia (Iran) is still big on handing out death sentences. Some things in Iran never change.
To support her dangerous mission, Esther asked all the Persian Jews to join her in three days of fasting and prayer so that she could walk into the throne room without having her head put on a silver platter. Unified as the Jewish nation, they all complied,
Three days later, Esther entered the throne-room looking her “hottest.” Instead of imposing a death sentence, King Ahasuerus approves her visit. Esther asked the King to accept an invitation to join her for a banquet and bring Haman too. During the banquet, she asks them to join her for another feast the next night (as the saying goes: the way to a man’s heart….).
On night two, she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman plans to exterminate her people, including her. The King got so angry at Haman’s plans he went outside into the garden to cool off.
When he returned to the feast, Haman got onto the couch next to Esther to beg for forgiveness. But that’s not what the King thought was happening. He thought his royal vizier Haman was trying to take advantage of Esther. He angrily questioned Haman, “Will you rape the queen with me in the house? This was an affront the Ahasuerus could Not forgive.
The King ordered that Haman be hanged along with his ten sons on the very gallows the grand vizier built to hang Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. Even though the King sent Haman and his sons to swim with the gefilte fishes, the story doesn’t end there.
According to Persian law, the approved decree against the Jews could not be annulled. The King came up with a solution. He issued an order allowing the Jews to defend themselves against the attacks. They protect themselves splendidly, the Jews are saved, and Mordecai becomes the King’s new royal vizier!
You know that old line about Jewish holidays, “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat,” The line for Purim is slightly different. It’s “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s drink.” Purim is the only Jewish holiday where Jews are supposed to get drunk. We’re supposed to drink until we don’t know the difference between Mordecai and Haman. As with all other days except for Yom Kippur and Tisha B’av, Jews are allowed to eat also (just ask their mothers).
Purim is a great holiday for kids. The kids don’t get plastered, only the adults. But the part of Purim, the kinder (children) enjoy is another traditional way of celebrating the holiday —wearing costumes and masks (not the COVID-type of masks). The kids enjoy wearing their costumes and seeing their parents look goofy in their costumes (like the one above) to hide themselves.
Kids also get to annoy their parents more than usual. During the reading of the Megillah, every time Haman is mentioned, the congregation uses noisemakers to drown out his name. Sadly, for parents, the kids usually take those noisemakers home and use them continually.
The reason for the costumes is, like politicians, all the major characters in the story hide who they really are:
- The King hid his authority and gave it to Haman.
- Hadassah changed her name to Esther to hide her religion.
- Mordecai told Esther to hide her religion, and he hid the fact that he was Esther’s uncle.
- Haman’s plot to kill the Jews and his hatred of Mordecai was hidden.
Perhaps the most significant case of hidden identity in the Purim story is God. Jews recognize that God helped them emerge safely in this battle against Haman’s extermination plan. But the Big Guy Upstairs isn’t mentioned in the Megillah. Jews know God was behind the victory despite the fact he wasn’t mentioned. That’s not an unusual occurrence. Look at many recent miracles where the only way we know that God was involved is that it wouldn’t have had the same result without some heavenly help. Just look at the creation of a Jewish State after almost 1,900 years or how nascent Israel defeated the militaries of the Arab League nations, which were more extensive and powerful than the IDF. Look at the biggest miracles since Moses led the Jews out of Egypt—the NY Jets winning Super Bowl III.
Today just like in the Purim story, politicians hide their real faces.
- The leaders of modern Persia (Iran) seek to destroy the Jews. This time it’s not with an army but a nuclear bomb, but they claim they aren’t building one. They even claim the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa against building nuclear weapons.
- Palestinian President Abbas hides his refusal to make peace,
- Russian President Putin tells his people that the invasion of Ukraine is a peacekeeping mission.
There are many other examples of politicians not representing themselves as what they really are.
- The mainstream media portrays itself as reporting the news in a balanced way., but they hide who they really are. Their coverage generally skews to their personal political positions.
- Jimmy Carter gets all the credit for the Camp David Accords, but as it was started, he tried to prevent peace talks between Israel and Egypt.
- Barack Obama claimed he supported Israel but was the most anti-Israel president in history.
- Politicians often hide their actual positions by campaigning with one position but changing that position once they finally get into office.
Like today’s politics, the Purim holiday is full of political intrigue and people representing themselves as something they’re not. The holiday’s lessons for today include not blindly trusting politicians of any party without researching to see if their words are nothing but masks.
The most important lesson is whether you see him or not, God is always there.