JERUSALEM, Israel -- There’s no lack of information about the Jewish Festival of Purim on the Internet. You can learn just about anything you want to know about its traditions -- how today’s Jews, from the Orthodox to the secular and everything in between, observe the holiday.
But the essence of the story of Purim, as recorded in the Book of Esther, is that no matter how dire the circumstances, it’s always right to trust God. This truth allowed Queen Esther to put her life on the line. She knew she could trust Him. She knew death would not be the end, only the end of her life on earth. And she must have believed she’d be with Him in heaven, which would be far better anyway.
God prepared her for “such a time as this.” He allowed her to be orphaned and adopted by her cousin Mordechai, who raised her. He must have been a good surrogate father because she submitted to him, as she later would to God.
The story is also very much about God’s faithfulness to His covenant people, the Jews, a people the world loves to hate for a myriad of reasons. Israel’s God, her defender, is in every detail of the “circumstances” that unfold in the 10 chapters of the book.
In the end, the king of the vast Persian Empire doesn’t reverse the irreversible edict against the Jewish genocide. Instead, he grants Jews permission to defend themselves against those who would try to slaughter them.
And defend they did, killing their attackers instead of the other way around. Interesting how that translates to modern Israel, the Israel DEFENSE forces, and the situations in which the modern Jewish nation-state often finds itself.
But the icing on the triangular Purim pastry (Yiddish: hamentashen Hebrew: oznei Haman) is that God instructs Mordechi to declare it a holiday throughout the generations. He must have wanted Jews to understand what their eternal God (Hebrew: Avi-Ad) did. Since it’s recorded in the Tenach (Old Testament), it’s there for everyone with a Bible to read.
To this day, Jews believe almost instinctively what God did then, He can do now. And the story takes place in ancient Persia, today’s Islamic Republic of Iran, no less.
Bottom line: on Purim, Jews celebrate the God who never changes, the One who’s the same yesterday, today and forever.
And that’s what this holiday is all about. Remembering what God did then and why Jews and their Christian brothers and sisters can trust Him no matter what. No one who chooses to follow Him will be disappointed.
So Israel, celebrate your God!