Today our Jewish friends continue the observance of this holiday until sundown. It actually started at sundown last night. Purim commemorates the story of Esther from the Hebrew Bible (more commonly called the Old Testament by Christians). This is a remembrance of the delivery of the Jews living outside Israel - specifically in Persia. In fact, the word "purim" refers to the Persian word for lots.
In the book of Esther, we see that the destruction of the Jewish people was arranged by Haman through the casting of lots.
Esther, the Persian queen, was Jewish but her cultural identity was unknown to the court. Her cousin Mordecai who raised her as his daughter presses her to save their people. They foil Haman's plot and he ends up on the gallows that he built for Mordecai.
|Traditional theatre performance on Purim holiday, March 2009 in Teatr Zydowski, Warszawa, Poland|
During the feast of Purim, there is feasting, gift exchanges, donations to charity and the reading of the book of Esther. During the reading, the audience is encouraged to cheer for Mordecai and boo for Haman whenever they hear their names.
As they drink wine during the feast, a portion of the Talmud encourages those to drink until they can no longer distinguish between Haman and Mordecai! Modern rabbis do not encourage this kind of blatant intoxication.
Deliverance and salvation is a theme that continues to occur throughout the Bible. All of us can probably speak to a time when we've walked through the valley and come out on the other side.
As we journey with Jesus to the cross, it is helpful for us to remember our own times of deliverance and trust that God remains with us today and into the future. I would encourage you to write down a time (or at least make a mental note) and to say a prayer of thanksgiving for your salvation!
"Goodbye Earl" is a modern day tale that reminds me of the story of Esther.
Photo by Kotoviski photograph by Henryk Kotowski (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons