This week, Jews around the world are celebrating the Purim holiday. For us as Jews, the holiday has great spiritual and religious significance. On Purim, Queen Esther and her relative Mordechai successfully managed to thwart Haman’s evil attempt to annihilate all of the Jews in the Persian Empire, young and old, men, women and children in a single day on the 13th of Adar, which was the first attempt in human history to slaughter all of the Jewish people just because of who they were and for no other reason.
For the Jewish people at that time, the edict was devastating as the Persians controlled over 127 different lands and all of the Jews at that particular time lived under their control. Thus, the threat to the Jews at that particular time was greater than the Holocaust for the Jews then had nowhere to run to as the Persians essentially controlled the entire known world during that era.
However, despite the death threat that the entire Jewish nation was facing at that time, the Jewish people strengthened their faith and returned to G-d’s ways with renewed vigor. They fasted for three days and repented for all of their sins. They regretted their desire to choose assimilating into Persian society over returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple. They unified as a nation and started obeying G-d’s laws, thus rectifying Haman’s charge that they should be slaughtered for they lacked unity and didn’t obey the King’s laws, which refers to G-d’s laws in the Book of Esther. Following that, G-d brought them salvation.
By showing faith in a time of great adversity, the Jews in the Purim story completed their acceptance of the Torah that began at Mount Sinai. Why was the Jewish peoples’ acceptance of the Torah not complete until then? It is easy to accept the Torah when everything is going well and the Jews have a sovereign state in Israel. But when the Jews are living in the Diaspora and facing the threat of annihilation, that is the great test of faith which the Jewish people passed that demonstrated that their acceptance of the Torah is for all eternity and not just for when everything is going well.
As the Jewish sages teach, “The miraculous events of Sinai consumed the Jew with fire and love. Thus any acceptance during these intense conditions could not be regarded as freely chosen. In the days of Purim, the Jews remained committed to the Torah despite the godless environment of the time.” Even though it endangered his life and that of the entire nation, Mordechai would not bow down to the evil Haman and only to G-d. Some claim that Haman wore idols around his neck and perhaps even considered himself a god. In Judaism, it is considered preferable to die than to worship an idol. And the Jewish community at the time supported Mordechai on this and they themselves remained committed to Judaism despite the fact that under such a death threat, it was easier to just give up. Even though the entire community faced extermination, the community reinforced their faith in G-d rather than lost it.
The Jewish community’s commitment to their faith, G-d and the Torah during a time of great adversity led to them not only meriting salvation but also teaches future generations of Jews the importance of unifying for the common good, being proud of our heritage, and remaining true to our religion even under the direst of conditions. For this reason, the Jewish sages teach that the loftiness of Purim even exceeds Yom Kippur: “Even if all of the festivals become obsolete, Purim will remain. In the messianic era, the joy and tranquility of the festivals will be a daily experience. Their light will be like that of a candle in the light of day. Yet even in that spiritually advanced climate, the loftiness of Purim will still be something to celebrate.”
This Op-Ed/Analysis is the author’s personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of JerusalemOnline.com