What is the significance of the Purim story for our times?

In every generation, there is a Haman that rises who seeks to exterminate the Jewish people. For this reason, the Purim story is timeless throughout the generations.
Photo Credit: Shabnam Assadollahi

The Talmud declares, “When we enter the Adar month, we increase in joy.” Indeed, there is good reason to be joyful during the Hebrew month of Adar for it is during this month that the Purim story takes place. On this holiday, which Jews around the world are celebrating today, the great grief that the Jews of Persia experienced was transformed into a day of happiness and celebrations.  Haman cast lots in order to determine which would be the best time in order to exterminate the Jewish people. He determined because Moses died in Adar, the Jews would not have luck during this month.  Therefore, he planned for a genocide to occur during this month. However, he also forgot that Moses was born during Adar. In the end, his plot ultimately failed.  For this reason, we celebrate.

But one might ponder, what is the significance of the Purim story to our times? We are living thousands of years after the Purim story occurred. Israel is now a state. Jews around the world now have a place to call home. In most countries, Jews are no longer living as a member of a persecuted minority group without a place to call home. In the West, Jews have been granted equal rights. And even the few remaining Jews in the Islamic world who don’t enjoy equal rights always have the option of making Aliyah. The Jews are in a better place today. So why is the Purim story still relevant for us?

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The message of the Purim story is timeless for throughout Jewish history, there has always been those who wish to annihilate the Jewish people. If one listens to ISIS, Iranian and Palestinian media outlets, genocidal intentions against the State of Israel are broadcast routinely. Common themes in the propaganda orchestrated by these entities are that the Jews are not obeying the king’s rules and therefore must all be killed, just as Haman argued thousands of years ago. And not too long ago, Hitler was in power and committed the worst genocide against the Jewish people in human history. There are people who survived the Holocaust that are still alive. Indeed, in every generation, there are Hamans' who seek to annihilate the Jewish people. However, like during Purim, the Jewish people always manage to survive and persevere despite all of the obstacles standing in their way.

Due to the victory of lightness over darkness, Purim and the entire Adar month is a joyous time. According to Jewish tradition, the excessive joy that the Jewish people experienced during Purim surpasses the happiness that Jews had experienced during other incidents throughout history for during Purim, the Jewish people were at an all-time low and G-d’s miracles were hidden from the masses. They lived in complete darkness. They were exiled from their ancestral homeland, the Jewish Temple had been destroyed, and thus Jews were no longer witnessing the miracles that were performed daily in the Jewish Temple. A king reigned who held a festive banquet where tools that were utilized in the Jewish Temple were displayed in a disrespectful manner. As the Book of Esther relates, the Jewish people at the time of the Purim story were scattered and divided.

Nevertheless, in this atmosphere, the hidden miracles of the Purim story occurred. Queen Vashti miraculously had a rash and for this reason, she did not want to appear nude in front of her husband’s guests. The king, who was drunk, decided to kill her after receiving lousy advice from his advisors.  Soon afterwards, he got lonely and wanted a new wife. So all of the women of Persia were presented to the king and the only one of them that King Ahasuerus wanted was Jewish Esther, even though she took zero efforts to make him want her for she wanted to marry a Jewish person, not him.

And all of these hidden miracles enabled the salvation of the Jewish people. Despite the dire state that the Jews of Persia found themselves in, the Jewish people held onto their faith and managed to succeed in preventing genocide on the 14th and 15th of Adar due to Esther’s ascendancy to the throne. It was a complete reversal from darkness into light, mourning into joy and death into life.  As recorded in the Book of Esther (9:1) “And it was turned around, the Jews prevailed over their enemies.” They managed to do this by uniting as a nation and returning to the faith of their ancestors in droves. Thus, Purim teaches us an important lesson today. Whenever the Jewish people are united and follow their faith, no enemy can defeat them.  Therefore, today if we remain united and follow G-d’s laws, the modern day Haman’s can conspire but all of their plots will ultimately fail.



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