Monday, March 9, 2009

The Feast Of Purim

"In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on its thirteenth day ... on the day that the enemies of the Jews were expected to prevail over them, it was turned about: the Jews prevailed over their adversaries." - Esther 9:1

"And they gained relief on the fourteenth, making it a day of feasting and gladness." - Esther 9:17

"[Mordecai instructed them] to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor." - Esther 9:22

The Feast of Lots, or Purim, commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people through the heroism of Queen Esther in Persia. The name Purim, or "lots," was most likely given to this festival in a sense of irony, because Haman, the enemy of the Jews, had plotted against them to completely destroy them by casting the lot (Esther 9:24). Today Jews not only celebrate this great deliverance on Purim, but also the continued survival of the Jewish race.

Mordecai, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, had been living as an exile in Susa at the time of the reign of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus). He had a neice named Hadassah, whom he had adopted and raised as his own daughter after her parents had died. Hadassah, or Esther (as her name was changed to), was very lovely and found favor in the eyes of the King and was chosen among hundreds of women to become Queen in the place of Vashti (who refused to come before the King when summoned.)

Haman, an Amalekite, was given the highest seat of honor by the King, but Mordecai refused to kneel down and pay him honor. This greatly angered Haman, and knowing that Mordecai was a Jew, a member of the race he hated, Haman began to plot a way to destroy all of the Jews throughout Persia. Haman convinced King Xerxes to issue a decree for their annihilation.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

Purim will occur on the following days of the Gregorian calendar:

Jewish Year 5769: sunset March 9, 2009 - nightfall March 10, 2009
Jewish Year 5770: sunset February 27, 2010 - nightfall February 28, 2010
Jewish Year 5771: sunset March 19, 2011 - nightfall March 20, 2011
Jewish Year 5772: sunset March 7, 2012 - nightfall March 8, 2012

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