2016-03-10 / Faith Community

A Tale of Purim Joy

Whether from ancient text, the Internet, or the commentary of practicing Jews, the story of Purim is portrayed as one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but he did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai had refused to bow down to him, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to intervene, a risky tactic, because anyone who came un-summoned into the king’s presence could be put to death. Esther fasted for three days and then went to the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman’s plot against her people.

The Jewish people were saved, and Haman and his 10 sons were hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

Celebrants of Purim are commanded to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between the phrases “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai,” though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is.

– James Merolla

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