The story of Purim is about hunger for power and about hatred born of the Jews' refusal to assimilate and their unwillingness to compromise religious principle by bowing before the secular authority. It is an old story. However, it has been repeated many times, making it both an ancient and modern story.
In the story it is related that Mordechai, Esther's cousin, refused to bow before Haman, the vizier of King Ahashverosh. So infuriated was Haman that he sought the annihilation of the Jewish people. Haman's accusation against the Jewish people has become the paradigm for all anti-Semites: "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples . . . their laws are different from those of other people, they do not obey the king's law, and the king should not tolerate them" (Esther 3:8). The prudent actions of Mordechai and the courage of Esther averted tragedy.
Purim recalls the dangers of minority status. Hatred of the foreigner and the stranger is still prevalent throughout the world. Anti-Semitism has not disappeared, but despite everything, the Jewish people have survived. Purim, however, is most of all a happy story--a story of survival and triumph over evil.
The Scroll of Esther/Megillat Esther, is one of the five scrolls contained in the Ketuvim or Hagiographa (Song of Songs/Shir ha-Shirim, Ruth, Lamentations/Eicha, Ecclesiastes/Kohelet and Esther). Each of the five Megillot is connected with a Jewish holiday or a remembrance day (Shir ha-Shirim to Pesach; Ruth to Shavuot; Eicha to Tisha Be-Av; Kohelet to Sukkot; Esther to Purim). Here, too, the Book of Esther is unique. All the other Megillot were attributed to the holiday subsequently, and the existence and the mitzvot of the holiday are in no way tied to the Megillah, whereas the Book of Esther is the basis of Purim. Take the reading of the Megillah away from Purim, and you have taken away its principal content and nature.
Megillat Esther is replete with irony. It differs entirely in style from the rest of the Bible. Megillat Esther, is riddled with humor - hidden laughter, concealed within open laughter. God's name is not mentioned even once in this book.
The Book of Esther is very similar in style and substance to the stories found in the Apocrypha, books which were not included in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach. Tobit, Judith and Susannah are all works that we have studied, or will be studying in our Tuesday morning class, held each week at 9 am. Join us to read these seldom read, but exciting and entertaining tales, written by Jews, but not included in our Bible.
And don’t miss us for our Purim Carnival Sunday, February 24 from 11 am-3pm at Temple Beth Ami. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday night, February 23, at 7 pm as we celebrate with our special Megillah Madness and Purim Celebration. Pizza and drinks, many, many different kinds of drinks, will be served.
Be Happy it’s Adar,
Rabbi Mark Blazer