On Wednesday evening Jews all across the world will begin to celebrate the holiday of Purim which commemorates a victory of the Jews over an evil man named Haman. Haman was the royal vizier of the King of Persia. Today Persia is called Iran. Purim is the perfect holiday for most political seasons as the entire story is about people representing themselves as something they’re not.
By the way, on Purim, we read the Megillat Esther, “The Scroll of Esther,” the firsthand account of the events of Purim, written by the heroes themselves Esther (whose real name was Hadassah) and her Uncle Mordecai. Megillat Esther is where the expression ‘The whole Megillah” comes from.” (I am sorry if I ruined it for those who thought it came from the old cartoon Magilla Gorilla).
The quick version of the story is Mordecai, the uncle and guardian of a young Jewess named Hadassah discovers a plot to kill the king, he informs the royal guards and the plot is foiled and the King is grateful.
Soon after Mordecai refuses to bow down to the royal vizier Haman (Jews only bow to God). Haman is outraged at this affront and asks his boss (the King) for permission to use Persian forces to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire because they are disloyal (kind of like the anti-Semites today who believe American Jews have a dual loyalty).The king grants Haman his wish.
Haman picks the attack for the Jewish month of Adar figuring that it must be bad luck for the Jews because that’s the month Moses died (he wasn’t a great student of history because Moses was also born in Adar making it a very good month). Haman chooses the exact date (the 14th) by drawing lots (in Hebrew Purim are lots, hence the name of the holiday).
While all this was going on, the King decides to “fire” his queen because she wouldn’t dance naked in front of the King’s friends (perhaps because there wasn’t late-night cable or internet porn in those days).The King holds an empire-wide beauty-pageant to pick the new queen. Mordecai’s niece Hadassah wins and becomes the new queen adopting a Persian name Esther (to hide her Jewishness).
Skipping to the end, Mordecai tells Esther of Haman’s plot and urges the new queen to ask the king to remove his permission. But going to the king without permission can bring on a death sentence (some things in Iran never change), so first Esther asks all the Persian Jews to join her in three days of fasting and prayer before she attempts to see the King.
She enters the throne-room looking her “hottest” and the king approves her visit. The king accepts her invitation to join her for a banquet (and bring Haman). At the banquet, she asked them to join her for another banquet the next night (the way to a man’s heart….).
On night two she reveals that she is Jewish and Haman is planning to exterminate her people, which includes her. This angers the king who orders Haman hanged along with his ten sons (on the very gallows the grand vizier had built to hang Esther’s Uncle Mordecai).
According to Persian law the previous decree against the Jews could not be annulled, so the King
allows Mordecai and Esther to write another decree as they wish. They write one that allows the Jews to defend themselves during attacks. They defend themselves splendidly, the Jews are saved, Mordecai becomes the King’s new vizier–and like in most Jewish holidays…let’s eat!
Purim is a great holiday for Kids, we wear costumes and masks, and when the Megillah is read every time the name Haman comes up they use noisemakers to drown out his name…