The story of Purim, celebrated by Jews worldwide from Monday evening through Tuesday
From Monday evening until dusk on Tuesday, Jews worldwide will celebrate Purim, a holiday commemorating the survival of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar by Jewish communities. It includes festivities, parties, and costumes, as well as the reading of the Book of Esther.
The story of Purim is found in the Book of Esther, where a plot by Haman, the royal advisor to King Ahasuerus, was conceived to kill the Jews in the Persian Empire.
Three years into the reign of King Ahasuerus he made a feast for officials and servants, nobles and princes lasting 180 days. When that feast was over, the king gave a banquet for all the people in Shushan. On the seventh day of that banquet, King Ahasuerus asked his wife, Queen Vashti, to be brought before his men to show them her beauty. Queen Vashti refused his request, angering the king, so he had her banished.
Following the removal of Queen Vashti, King Ahasuerus then set out to find a new wife, ordering a beauty pageant in which he would choose a new bride. A law was decreed that all beautiful, single woman of the land would be brought to King Ahasuerus so he could pick a new queen.
One of the women brought was Esther, an orphaned girl raised by her cousin Mordecai who loved her as his daughter. Mordecai was a Shushanite resident and leader of the Jewish people. He asked Esther to keep her Jewish identity a secret to protect her from any harm.
Esther was forced to join King Ahasuerus’s harem to participate in the contest of who would become the king’s new wife. For twelve months the women were pampered in perfumes, oils and lotions in preparation for the king’s choosing. During the selection, King Ahasuerus was taken by Esther’s beauty and married her, making her Queen Esther of Persia.
Shortly after their marriage, Mordecai overheard a plot by the king’s servants to assassinate King Ahasuerus. Mordecai reported the plot to the king, who had them hanged as traitors to the kingdom.
One of the king’s ministers, Haman, was then promoted in rank. Haman was an anti-Semite, a descendant of the nation of Amalek. Shortly after his promotion, King Ahasuerus issued a decree that all must bow to Haman, but Mordecai refused to bow to Haman.
Haman went before the king, offering him 10,000 silver talents in exchange for permission to exterminate all the Jews of the land. The king refused to take the money and told Haman, “The nation is yours to do with as you please.” This marked the 13th of the month of Adar.
Haman sent proclamations throughout the kingdom, signed with the royal crest, calling on the people of the empire to rise against the Jews. Upon hearing of the decree, Mordecai called Esther to go to the king and beg him to spare the Jewish people. Mordecai told Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom as such a time as this?”(Esther 4:13-14)
Esther agreed to go to the king, calling on the Jewish people to fast for three days. All 22,000 Jews in the empire complied.
Following the three days of prayer and fasting, Esther approached King Ahasuerus. The king accepted her, Esther invited Haman and the king to a feast she prepared. The king accepted the invitation and attended Esther’s feast. The king asked Esther is she had a request from him. Esther stated that she would ask him the next day at a feast she would prepare. The king accepted her invitation.
Mordecai refused to bow to Haman during the feast. That night, Haman angry that Mordecai refused to bow before him, erected gallows and planned to ask the king the following day to hang Mordecai for his disobedience.
The same night before the second feast, King Ahasuerus could not sleep and called on his servants to read from the royal chronicles. The servants read to him about Mordecai saving the king’s life. The king called on Haman, asking him what a man should be rewarded for saving a king. Haman responded that the man should be given royal garments, a royal horse and be proclaimed throughout the city streets the man who the king delights to honor. King Ahasuerus ordered Haman to do this for “Mordecai the Jew.”
The second feast arrived, and King Ahasuerus asked Esther what her request was. Esther revealed she was a Jew and exposed Haman for the evil man he was. She told the king about the gallows he built that were intended for Mordecai. The king immediately ordered that Haman be hanged on the gallows.
Esther and Mordecai pleaded with the king to annul the decree of the 13th of Adar. However, the king could not annul a royal decree. The king did, however, permit Esther and Mordecai to issue a new decree that the Jewish people were permitted to defend themselves and to pre-emptively kill anyone who put them at risk.
On the 13th of Adar, the Jews battled those who tried to kill them, including all of Haman’s ten sons who died in Shushan. Following the battle, Queen Esther requested from the king an additional day to slaughter those who attempted to kill the Jewish people. The king permitted her request, marking the 14th of Adar.
On the 15th of Adar, the Jews of Shushan celebrated their victory, commemorating a holiday of the event. The holiday of Purim is a celebration and remembrance of the attempted destruction of the Jews of Shushan, and the remembrance of Queen Esther and Mordecai.
Observant Jews begin Purim on the 13th of Adar, fasting and commemorating Esther’s bravery. Jews today celebrate Purim by wearing costumes, having parties and reading of the Book of Esther. During the reading of the Book of Esther, it is customary to “boo” every time Haman’s name is read aloud.
Many communities hold a ‘Purim spiel,” a reenactment of the Purim story. The holiday is celebrated with “Oznei Haman” or better known as “Hamantaschen”- a pastry with different fillings. Purim is a Jewish holiday in remembrance of God’s delivery of the Jewish people and celebration of the victory in Shushan.
Today, we have the same spirit of the annihilation of the Jews coming from the exact same part of the world. Modern Iranian leaders are obsessed with the spirit of Haman even today.
We don’t need an Esther anymore in the palace. We need the prayers of the saints worldwide.
“Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4)