Purim emphasizes the power of standing up to evil, even at personal risk
Mar 07, 2014 | 4526 views | 0 0 comments | 480 480 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Faith Schuster
Words of  Faith
Faith Schuster Words of Faith
Purim celebrates a time when the Jewish people living in ancient Persia (today’s Iran) survived a plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”  The holiday is a joyous day of feasting and fun. The Purim story, read from the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) tells of Persia under the rule of King Ahasuerus, who ordered a search to find the most beautiful woman in the land to replace his wife, Queen Vashti, because she had disobeyed him.  He chose Esther to become his queen, not knowing that she was Jewish. Mordechai, Esther’s guardian-uncle, had advised her to keep her religion a secret. 

Haman, the king’s chief advisor, hated Mordechai for refusing to bow down to him.  He plotted to destroy Mordechai, along with all the Jews in the kingdom, telling the king that the Jews should be killed because their laws were different and it was not befitting for the king to tolerate them in his kingdom. The king told Haman he could do as he pleased with the Jews.  Haman decided on a day on which all the Jews in the kingdom would be killed and he had gallows built especially for Mordechai.   

Mordechai hoped to save the Jewish people by getting Esther to speak to the king on their behalf.  Esther bravely went before the king, even though she knew that a person could be put to death for daring to approach the king without being summoned.  Esther told the king of Haman’s plot against her people and pleaded for their lives.

The king did not let Haman carry out the genocide of the Jews; instead he had Haman hanged on the very gallows Haman had prepared for Mordechai.  With Haman dead, the Jewish people were saved.

The word “Purim” means “lots,” a reference to the lottery Haman used to decide the date on which the Jews were to be slaughtered.  For Jewish people today, the primary obligation related to Purim is to listen to the reading of the Megillah. While the story is being read from the scroll, it is customary to boo, hiss, stamp the feet, and whirl graggers (noisemakers) to blot out the name of Haman whenever it is mentioned. It is also commanded to eat, drink and be merry, to give mishloach manot – gifts of food and drink – to friends, and to give matanot la’Evyonim – donations to the needy.  

After observing the Fast of Esther (the day before Purim, because Esther fasted the day before she approached the king), it is customary to enjoy a se’udah, a special festive meal, with wine or other alcoholic beverages. Community Purim celebrations may include masquerades, carnival-like parties, beauty contests, and Purim shpiels –funny plays or parodies – but, amidst all the fun, the serious message of the holiday emphasizes the power of standing up to evil even at personal risk.

The Brattleboro Area Jewish Community will celebrate Purim on Saturday, March 15, at the West Meeting House (All Souls Church), 29 South Street in Brattleboro, VT.  The program begins at 6:30 with a Havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat, followed by a high-spirited reading of the Megillah.

Then the party begins, with the Wholesale Klezmer Band playing lively music for dancing and listening.  All are welcome to come to the BAJC party.  Costumes and masks are encouraged, and wear your dancing shoes. Refreshments will be served, with the emphasis on hamentaschen (a type of filled pastry). Tickets for raffle prizes will be sold to benefit the congregation’s Families In Need fund. The party is open to all, young and old, Jewish or not, BAJC members or not. There is no charge for this evening of Megillah, music, and merriment, but please bring a nonperishable food item for the Drop-in Center and the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry.   For more information email faith@bajcvermont.org, call (802) 464-2632 or check the BAJC website www.bajcvermont.org.
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