What is Purim?
By Menachem Levison
What is the meaning of the miracle of Purim that happened some 2500 years ago for us? The miracle of Purim happened in between the period of the first and second temples. It happened during the reign of Persian influence in the world. Things were different then. What do we have in common with events that happened then?
But we must realize that what ever is in the Jewish Bible is there for our benefit. Many miracles have happened to many individuals and communities through out the passage of time. Yet only that which was essential to our individual and national well being were canonized into the "Tanach".
The Megalith Esther is one of those books. Every word, letter and phrase comes to teach us, each individual person, about the meaning of life and how we should live.
Purim took place during the time that the Jews were in the Golus, the exile between the two Temples. From the view of the physical well being, the Jews in Persia we were well off and did not suffer from deprivement as we know it. Just the opposite, we see in the Megalith, that Jews were amongst those invited to the royal feast. The wife of the king, was none other than Queen Esther. Mordecai was a top trusted adviser.
Never the less, it was at this time in the exile, that things were good; Golus was livable. It was precisely at this point that the evil Haman came into play to make a decree that the Jews should be put to death, men, women, and children.
We need to ask at this point, where did he get the inspiration and guts to begin such an evil path against the Jews?
It is possible to explain Haman's thoughts from what he told the king, "there is a singular people who are spread out and separated from your people throughout the entire empire, and their belief is different from all people."
Haman understood that the Jews were a singular and united people ever though they were spread out amongst the various peoples of the King's empire. Haman understood that because their belief was different from all the other peoples of the kingdom, they were united. Because of this, he felt, the other nations and peoples could not triumph over them.
But when Haman saw the people coming to the feast that the king had made for the people in his kingdom, he saw that there were Jews who were not particular about Kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws). He saw Jews who regaled in King Achaverous's feast and showed no sorrow at the recent destruction of the Temple and exile of the Jews. He saw Jews acting like gentiles. He saw that there were Jews to whom Judaism was of no importance. He realized that the Jews were not just a nation that had kept to themselves even when they were spread amongst the nations, but that there was not unity among them.
This is something that the modern Haman saw some sixty years ago in Germany. While the Jews had their own religion and customs, there was no unity. Each one fought with the other and therefore, it was easy to conquer them.
What was the reaction of Mordacai and Esther to Haman?
Mordechai refused to bow to such an evil man. This means that he was not willing to give in to anyone who desired to make a dent in a Jew's service to G-d. Queen Esther willing sacrificed her personal comfort and even endangered her life to aid her people.
From the time of Haman's evil decree to kill all the Jews until the time when the decree was to be enforced was almost a year. During this time much soul searching was done by all of the Jews. They repented of their sins and returned to G-d with a contrite heart.
Even more so, the Jewish children would gather under the tutelage of Mordechai to pray to G-d and to study Torah. Together all the merits of the children with the adults caused the miracle of Purim to occur.
Just the opposite of what Haman desired to happen came to be. His decrees were over turned. Instead of the Jews being frightened, it was the anti-Semites among the Persians that were frightened. Instead of the Jews massing to convert to becoming gentiles, the gentiles wanted to convert to Judaism to escape being killed. The Jews enjoyed much success and joy, while their enemies were cut down.
What is the lesson to us from this entire story?
Clearly, it behooves us as Jews to be together. Unity is not a matter of wearing the same uniform but rather sharing the same basic beliefs. Unity is promoted by having a higher regard for the Jew who does not act in accord with our way of thinking; we must give him the benefit of the doubt: Perhaps he is correct and maybe we are mistaken.
If we examine the Mitzvot connected to Purim we will see that there are four: Reading the Megilah, Making a festive meal, sending gifts to our friends, and giving presents to the downtrodden and needy. Each of these Mitzvot is connected to bringing Jews together. Reading the Megilah is to be done in a minyan, meaning at least ten people assembled together for the sole purpose of hearing the reading of the Megilah. The Rabbis tell us that it is best if the reading can be done in the presence of a great number of Jews. When a great numbers of Jews assemble to do one of G-d's Mitzvot, then the glory of G-d is highlighted and his glory in the world is increased.
The next mitzvah is making a festive party. To make a good party, you must invite friends and neighbors to be together and enjoy each other's company. This is obviously a way of bringing Jews together.
Sending food gifts to our friends and neighbors that we know increases the bonds of friendship. And for certain, the giving of presents to the depressed and poor, even though we do not know them increases the joy and happiness amongst all the Jews.
So we see that above all the message of Purim is for Jews to stand united in solidarity, with belief in G-d. This is especially important in the face of our enemies even though they may appear many and mighty. For we have seen that the victory goes not to he who has the fastest horse, but to he upon whom the grace of G-d shines.
from the March 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine