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All About the Jewish Festival

If you love candy and gifts, as well as elaborate meals and fun parties, then Purim might very well be your new favorite time of year! The Purim festival is part of the Jewish calendar. It is a day to celebrate a victory, if you will – it is a day which rejoices in the defeat of an oppressor who had wanted to ruin the Jewish nation. He ended up facing the same doom which he had so cruelly once intended for the Jewish population.

This story can be read in the Book of Ester, widely referred to as Migilat Ester. The unfortunate events come together in the end in a great festivity on the 14th of the Hebrew month, Adar. During Purim, many bands perform in the streets and receive Mishloach Manot from those who want to show their appreciation. Mishloach Manot, of course, means “gifts”. Aside from bands, there are carnivals and parades and people wear masks and other costumes to celebrate. Read on for more information on the story of Purim and how it came into existence in the first place. It is important to understand how it began in order to fully appreciate it.




The Reign of Ahasuerus

In 560BC, Ahasuerus, the Persian King, ruled more than 120 countries from India to Ethiopia. He constantly boasted about his affluence and authority. He would hold banquets that lasted up to 180 days. These banquets would finish with a feast which lasted a week. It was held for those who lived in Shushan, the capital. Members of the Jewish population would be invited to this long-lasting feast. They were surely delighted that kosher food was made especially for them. As mentioned, the King certainly enjoyed bragging about his riches and power. He decided to show everyone that his wife was the most beautiful. He had had a bit to drink at this particular time and called for his wife, Queen Vashti, to show everyone her beauty.

However, she refused to appear before King Ahasuerus, which left him embarrassed. He demanded that she be barred from the palace. Moreover, he was guided by his councilors to sentence her to death. In his loneliness that followed, the King decided (as per his councilors) to find a replacement wife for Queen Vashti. He searched for a young girl. Upon this decision, he ordered all of the youthful virgins to come to the palace to see who would capture his attention. The girl who captured his interest would replace the Queen. Hundreds of girls showed up. Mordechi, a Jew who was displaced from Jerusalem during the destruction of the Temple, had adopted a cousin named Hadassah whom he treated as his own child. He called her “Ester” to conceal her identity as a Jew. She was one of the girls who gathered at the palace for the King’s attention.





A New Queen…

As the story goes, the King fell in love with Ester immediately. He put a crown on her head and she was named the new Queen. Of course, Ester kept her identity as a Jew a secret as per Mordechi’s request. Even though she was asked about her nationality by the King, she did not confess. Ester upheld her promise to Mordechi.

Mordechi eventually overheard two eunuchs talking outside of the King’s gate. They were discussing plans to murder him. Mordechi told Ester, who told the King. As a result, King Ahasuerus was saved because of a Jew. This was written down in his book of memoirs.




Mordechi Refuses to Bow.

King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite to an important role. With his new power, Haman commanded that servants who walked through the gates of the King had to bow to him. However, Mordechi refused to bow down. In his rage, Haman wanted to take revenge on the Jewish population in its entirety. He came up with a plan for all of the Jews in the kingdom as a result. He decided to determine a date for their annihilation. Haman was the primary adversary in the Book of Ester (from the Hebrew Bible). Queen Ester soon discovered Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews. She ended up risking her life in order to save the Jews. Haman ends up dying the way in which he planned to kill Mordechi. He is remembered as being a terrible enemy of the Jews.

Purim celebrates the liberation of the Jews and Haman’s defeat. During Purim, the Book of Ester is typically read and the sound of noisemakers can be heard to show contempt for Haman. Purim is certainly a day to rejoice and there is a great deal of good food, gifts and even charity donations.


Haman went to the king in anger and said "there is one nation scattered and divided between the nations throughout the countries of your kingdom, their beliefs are not like any other nations, and they do not follow the king's beliefs and it is not worth the king's while to let them be." "Let it be written that they will be destroyed….and ten thousand talents of silver …I will put into the royal treasury."

The king, who was drunk at the time, answered without thinking. "The money is given to you and you may do with the people as you see fit." The king gave Haman his ring and with it Haman placed the royal seal on a decree ordering the annihilation of the Jews.

Immediately messengers were sent to all the corners of the kingdom to give the order, that on the 13th day of the 10th month, which is the month of Adar, all the Jews are to be exterminated, killed and done away with, including their men, their women, their elderly and their young children.



The city of Shushan is shamed…

When Mordecai heard all that was decreed on his people, he ripped his clothes, donned sackcloth and covered his head with ash in morning, he went out to the market square and raised his voice in a bitter cry, then he came to the king's gate.

When Queen Ester's maids and slaves told her the news she was furious and extremely saddened. She called one of the eunuchs from the king's court and demanded to know what was happening.

The eunuch went out to Mordecai who told him of all that had happened and even begged the eunuch to tell Ester to do all she could to get the harsh decree canceled.

When the eunuch returned and told Ester what Mordecai had said she ordered the eunuch to return to Mordecai and tell him: "Each man and woman who comes into the king's inner court without being called – is put to death, except if the king holds out his gold sepulcher,

And I have not been summoned by the king for thirty days."

And this was told to Mordecai, that Ester was scared to go before the king, as it was only allowed to go before the king if the king calls for her and if she comes to him on her own initiative, she will be put to death.

Ester, knew very well that she was likely to be put to death in any case, whether she goes to the king without being summoned or not,

Ester ordered the eunuch to return to Mordecai "go gather all the Jews of Shushan and fast, do not eat or drink for three days and three nights, and I too will fast together with my maids. And following the fast I will go before the king without being summoned "and if I perish, I perish." Mordecai did all that Ester had asked him to and he gathered all the Jews and they fasted for three days.



Ester's meeting with the King.

On the third day Ester put on her royal clothing, and stood in the inner court. When the king sat on his throne, and saw Queen Ester, "he liked what he saw and held out his gold sepulcher and Ester approached him and touched the top of the sepulchered."

The king was pleased by Ester's beauty and being in a good mood he asked her: "What is your wish? I will give you up to half my kingdom."

Ester answered "If it pleases the king, if the king and Haman would come to the banquet I have planned for him today", the king and Haman attended the banquet which Ester had prepared,

During the banquet the king asked her again: "What is your wish, up to half my kingdom I will give you!" "Ester answered that Haman and the king are invited to another banquet which she is planning and then, at that banquet she would tell him of her wish.

When Haman was invited to Ester's second banquet he went out of the palace "happy and in a good mood" because he thought that everyone was showing him respect, even the Queen. But, when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate, Mordecai refused to bow down to him: "And didn't rise and didn't move"…and "Haman was furious at Mordecai."

Haman went home and bragged to his wife Zeresh about his honored position with the king.  And about the fact that of all the king's ministers only he had been invited to the king's banquet, and now again to another banquet!

But Haman went on to complain: "None of that means anything to me so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.



The evil scheme…

Zeresh, Haman's wife, who was as evil as her husband, instead of encouraging him, suggested to him: " Make a tall wooden gallows constructed 50 amah high (ancient measurement 1 amah = 5 meters) and in the morning go to the king and hang Mordecai on it, then you can go to the king's banquet happily."

Haman accepted the malicious advice and happily prepared the gallows for Mordecai



And in the middle of the night…

The night before the banquet which Ester had arranged the king had trouble falling to sleep. He asked for his book of chronicles to be brought to him. "And he found written where Mordecai had come to inform on Bigtan and Terish the king's two eunuchs…"who were plotting to kill King Ahasuerus" and he recalled that the king's two eunuch planned to kill him and that Mordecai saved his life…then the king asked his man servant: What was done in appreciation to honor Mordecai for this? The man servant answered him: "Nothing was done at all" the king asked "who is in the courtyard?" At that exact moment Haman arrived in the king's courtyard to ask permission from the king to hang Mordecai by the gallows!

The king's servants informed him that Haman was in the courtyard, the king asked for Haman to come inside so that the king could ask Haman's advice: "What would you do to a man that the king wishes to honor? That is to say what could be done for a man who the king wants to promote and give greater honor."

Haman thought to himself: "who could the king want to give greater honor to than me." Haman was sure that the king was talking about him and so he enthusiastically advised the following:

"A man who the king wants to give the greatest honor would be dressed in royal robes fit for a king and ride upon a king's horse and would be given a royal crown upon his head, when he is dressed and on a king's horse …he would ride through the city streets and it would be announced for all to hear: "This is how a man is treated when the king wishes to honor him" and when Haman finished talking the king said to him: " Immediately go and get the robes and horse you spoke of, and do for Mordecai the Jew who sits at the king's gate, all that you have spoken of." Haman was stunned and angry but he didn't have any choice and he carried out word for word the king's instructions.

"And Haman took the robes and the horse and dressed Mordecai and led Mordecai upon the horse through the city calling out before him: " This is how a man is treated when the king wishes to honor him."

From all the houses, and from all the windows and from the roof tops people looked at Mordecai and the humiliated Haman who led the horse with Mordecai upon it. Also Haman's daughter looked out of the high window of their house and was sure she saw her father on the horse and Mordecai leading the horse. She took a bucket full of murky water and poured it on top of the head of the man leading the horse. Wet and dirty Harman looked up to see who had done this to him, to his surprise he saw his daughter looking down at him in shock. Once his daughter had realized her mistake, the young girl threw herself from the roof top and died.

After the shameful scene, Mordecai returned to the king's gate and the embarrassed Haman, who had dressed Mordecai in royal robes and led Mordecai through the streets on a royal horse in front of all the people, "went back to his house with his head hung low."

Haman told his wife Zeresh and his loved ones what had happened to him and they answered in reply: If Mordecai, who you have gone against is of Jewish blood you will not be able to stand against him, you will surely come to ruin."

And immediately, the king sent for Haman to join him at the banquet that Ester had arranged, at the banquet the king asked Ester again: "What is your wish, what would you like? Up to half my kingdom."



Ester opens her heart…

"And Queen Ester answered and said if you are pleased with me your majesty, and if the king wishes to give me peace of mind answer my request and my people's request" "as I and my people have been doomed to be exterminated and lost "that is to say I am Jewish and my fellow people are going to be killed and we are sentenced to death. The king asked her in amazement: "Who did this and who has it in his heart to do such a think?" Ester replied:"The persecutor and enemy this evil Haman." Haman trembled before the king and queen, more humiliation to Haman as he was the one who decreed the extermination of all the Jews,

And one of the king's guards, a eunuch, added fuel to the fire by saying:" It was also Haman who prepared the 50 amah high gallows for Mordecai, who spoke well of the king."

The king was furious with anger and commanded: Hang on the gallows, hang Haman on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai."



Measure for measure

"And Haman was hung on the gallows which he had prepared for Morecai and the king was filled with wrath" So the wheel turns. Mordecai became one of the king's councilors in Haman's place and Mordecai even got the ring which the king had given to Haman…

Queen Ester went on to plead before King Ahasuerus, "remove the evil Haman and his plans for the Jews",

She asked him to recall all the decrees which had been distributed through the streets including the decree for the extermination of the Jews made with the royal seal of the king's ring. King Ahasuerus gave Mordecai permission to write a new decree as he saw fit and to seal it with the king's royal ring. But the orders that had already gone out were impossible to cancel.

From the darkness into the light and from mourning into a joyous day…