But I'm not writing today to talk about the Jewish New Year, rather to talk about Purim.
On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.
Esther 9:1 (NIV)
Have you ever read the Book of Esther from the Bible? It's a rather charming story that captures the romantic imagination of the reader.Can you tell I'm a romance writer?
At one point in Jewish history they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians, those Babylonians were eventually overtaken by the Persians. Got it?
So, fast forward a few years and you have an interesting cast of players.
King Xerxes I- King of Persia
Queen Vashti- Xerxes queen
Esther- orphaned, exiled Jewish girl living with her cousin
Mordecai- Esther's cousin
Haman-an honored royal official
So here is the dumbed down version. King Xerxes had a party. After he had a little too much to drink, he requested his queen attend him so he could show her off to all his royal officials. Whether it was pride or her sensibilities, she refused. The king's officials feared their wives would rise up in disobedience too, causing discord within many a household. Vashti's disobedience to the king caused her to become dethroned. OUCH! Talk about being made an example.
What was a king to do?
Find a new queen.
A bunch of virgins throughout the kingdom were gathered and taken to the king's harem where they were beautified for twelve months. Seriously? I'd love to have a twelve month spa. Esther caught the eye of Hegai, the person in charge of the harem. This gained Esther seven personal maids. Wow! And the best place in the harem. With treatment like that, the other virgins didn't have a chance, did they?
No, they didn't because Xerxes chose Esther. The young, exiled, orphaned Jewish girl raised by her cousin.
Anyway, throw in a murder plot against the king, which was thwarted by Esther's cousin, a prideful, jealous royal official plotting to annihilate the Jews and a bold, yet humble, beautiful young Jewish woman who found much favor with her new husband and you have a super duper romance that could only have been written by the hand of God.
Oh, I'm not supposed to be talking about romance, am I?
Anyway, Haman, that jealous official plotting to kill the Jews, cast lots in order to decide the day they'd be killed. This casting lots, or rolling of the dice, is called pur. Yeppers, you got it, PURIM.
To make a long story short, Esther was able to convince her husband to help her save her people. Xerxes gave the Jews permission to take up arms against those who attacked them.
The Jews prevailed! And the king and queen lived happily ever after.
So, why the holiday?
These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die among their descendants.
Esther 9:28 (NIV)