March 7, 2012

Purim: Queen Esther


Tonight is the start of what Jews around the world call Purim. This festival commemorates the day the Jewish people were freed from extermination at the hands of the Persian Empire under King Ahasuerus in the fourth century BCE. The royal vizier of the King, named Haman, requested that all the Jews in the kingdom be killed on a certain day, in part because of his deep hatred for the Jew Mordecai (the adopted father of the orphan Esther). Mordecai would not prostrate before Haman when he would pass by and thus inspired Haman to create the verdict. In the end Esther (now a queen) boldly went before the King and requested that her people be spared. This she did at the risk of losing her own life. Because of her intervention, the day that was set apart for the killing of the Jews instead became the day that Haman was executed by hanging and the Jews were spared.

Jews celebrate today by retelling the story of Esther as found in the book of Esther in the Old Testament. To help with the story, the children dress up and act out the various parts of the story. Each time the name of Haman is mentioned, the children will all yell and make as much noise as they possibly can, to drown out his name. Purim is kind of like Halloween for Jews (except more religious in nature, instead of satanic) and is often one of the holidays Jewish children enjoy the most.

Esther is a wonderful example to all people, especially women. She did something that was not only very dangerous, but something that saved the lives of thousands of Jews. It is because of her story that much of the Jewish race was preserved. Who knows, she may have saved one of the ancestors of the apostles, or the shepherds, or John the Baptist, or even Jesus Christ. It is courage like this that makes a difference for good in the lives of the entire world.

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