One of my favorite Jewish holidays has always been Purim—the biblical Feast of Esther (Est. 9:22). The holiday is observed on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar, which corresponds to our solar calendar date this year on March 24. The celebrations last for a full day, but remember, the Jewish day begins the night before and concludes at sunset; therefore the Festival begins on the evening of March 23.
There are many reasons why I enjoy Purim (a Hebrew word which means “lots”). But perhaps the foremost reason why I love Purim is because I am Jewish and if the evil Haman had succeeded, I would never have been born! On Purim we celebrate the survival of the Jewish people, usually against greats odds and far more powerful enemies.
We Are Still Here!
In fact, this pattern of deliverance is such an important part of the Jewish story. As my good friend Dr. Michael Rydelnik, who teaches at Moody Bible Institute, humorously summarizes: “They tried to kill us, we won and so—we ate!” On Purim we celebrate by eating special baked goods called hamantaschen—sometimes referred to as “Haman’s hat” or “Haman’s ears”! These are wonderful pastries with various types of fruit and poppy seeds enfolded into a very buttery and delicious cookie.
The Scroll of Esther
The main event of the Purim celebration is the reading of the Book of Esther, called in Hebrew, the Megillot Esther, the Scroll of Esther; and oftentimes a play based upon the story is used to entertain and educate both children and adults alike. Jewish people are at their most creative in putting on these plays and use different themes each year to keep the story interesting.
I am sure there will be plenty of Purim plays with a Star Wars theme this year! The plays are supposed to be fun and are not viewed as irreverent as they do tell the great story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from the hateful hands of Haman.
There is also a phenomenon in Jewish history called the second Purim. These events are not widely known, but perhaps you can already understand why Jewish people created them. A second Purim refers to an instance, aside from what was recorded in the Book of Esther, when the Jewish people were saved from imminent destruction.
The enlightening description of second Purim on the website Jewishgen.org concludes,In a few fortunate cases, the danger (facing the Jewish community) was suddenly removed, or the dreaded law was inexplicably abrogated. Then, that community would commemorate each anniversary of the happy change by observing a “Second Purim,” a festival, which mimicked the original Purim, which marks the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from the evil machinations of Haman. Historians have listed some 90 “second Purim” anniversaries observed by various Jewish families and communities, beginning with the early Middle Ages.1
There were even times throughout Jewish history when the enemies of Israel selected Purim as the day they would attack the Jewish people. There was an instance during the Holocaust period when Purim became a day of slaughter for a local Jewish community.
It seems that both the Jewish people and enemies of Israel understood the symbolic value of the story of Esther.
New Hamans Arise in Every Generation
There are new Hamans on the world scene today seeking the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel is under attack and antisemitism is on the rise. We understand that ISIS and all forms of Islamic extremism seek the destruction of Israel. In fact, the existence of the modern state of Israel is actually opposed by almost every manifestation of Islam— though various brands of Islam exercise this antipathy in different ways. Some are more violent than others.
The rise of global antisemitism has begun to permeate our society and is often subtly wrapped in the guise of an anti-Israel position. We see this virulent form of anti-Jewish behavior actively engaged on our college campuses today.
Unfortunately, this anti-Israel spirit can easily cross boundaries and align itself with an anti-Jewish position, even flowing into the lives and ministries of good Christians and churches seeking to bring the Gospel and comfort to those viewed as suffering injustice.
Let’s face it—there is a lot of propaganda and noise bombarding our culture through the media. It is hard for everyday sincere people to distinguish between what is true and what is false.
As followers of Jesus the Jewish Messiah for all, and as those who believe the Bible, composed by primarily Jewish authors, we should be sympathetic to the Jewish cause. Historically, most true Christians have been pro-Israel and pro-Jewish without being anti anyone else…but today winds of change are in the air and therefore it is important to reread what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, we see a growing anti-Israel movement within the church today that also shows the telltale signs of an historic anti-Jewish position as well.
God Is Faithful to His Promises
As followers of Jesus the Messiah we understand that God still has His hand on the Jewish people! This is why we have a long history of second Purims, where we celebrate God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people.
May I summarize the remarkable promises penned in Jeremiah 31:35-37?
The Jewish people will not be destroyed until they fulfill all God intended them to do. God is not yet finished with His chosen people (Rom. 11:29).
The above rests upon the foundational passage in the book of Genesis when God promised Abram that He would bless those who bless the Jewish people and curse those who curse them. We also see in this passage that God promised to bring blessings to the entire world (Gen. 12:3) specifically through the Jewish people. God created the Jewish people to be a bridge of blessings and revelation to the nations.
These truths of Scripture are clear to me and are a great foundation for our understanding of God’s plan and purposes for the Jewish people!
Happy Purim! I pray the Lord will guide us as we try to understand our times, stay true to the teachings of the Scriptures and remain faithful to our Messiah, Deliverer and Lord!