I grew up in a Christian home. My favorite holidays were Christmas and Easter, for Kepha’s sake! Now that I understand the pagan roots of those traditions, I embrace the Feasts of YHVH. It’s “Out with the old traditions, in with the new!” (Or is it vice versa?) I want to be adopted and participate in His Feasts! But, as much as I love Him and want to please Him, I have to learn How to do that! How can I truly make these Feasts both a part of my life and part of my heart? It is like setting foot into another culture and nation.
So, while it is fun, it is also a challenge because it feels ‘foreign’ or ‘different’ — ‘odd’ even! For the first couple of years it was as if I were behind the curve on every Feast. I didn’t know how to anticipate, prepare or even fully enjoy these new-to-me Feasts! I have made the effort to understand the roots of these celebrations (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot, Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles)! Then, along comes Hanukkah and Purim. They aren’t in Leviticus 23, but they carry significant weight within the Jewish Community and are part of our heritage as the set-apart nation.
Will an understanding of these traditions and histories illuminate my walk as a Hebrew? How can I add these into my traditions and settle them into my heart?
Purim: What is it?
Purim comes from a Hebrew root that means ‘lots.’ Lots of what?
If you watch the celebrations the Jewish people hold on this holiday, you might think it is an echo of Halloween! Everyone dresses up in costumes, they share hamentaschen (holiday cookies) and candy in gift baskets! They have parties where there is entertainment, and hold parades with giant inflatable animals carried along like a Chinese dragon! When the Rabbis read the story of Esther, whenever the name ‘Haman’ is mentioned, everyone ‘boos’ or makes a racket with horns and noisemakers (so that his name may be blotted out!) It almost sounds like New Years Eve in America!
Is this just a potpourri of lots of different holidays rolled into one? Which came first? Why ‘lots’? And why, if it isn’t part of Leviticus 23, is it important?
The Story of Esther
If you want to understand Purim, you have to read the story of Esther.
The Book of Esther is written on a single scroll called a megillah. There are a few others, but it is not unusual for a direct connection to be made between the word ‘megillah’ and the scroll of Esther. I will give a brief synopsis, but for the whole megillah I suggest you read the story for yourself.
But before I do that, what does this book of the Bible have to do with Purim? Why is it even included in the Scriptures? I have read the book of Esther, and YHVH is not mentioned by name even once! There are a lot of good studies out there about how it is all a type and shadow of things to come. I am not going to try to go down that rabbit trail. Instead, I pose the question, is this historical account important enough to hold an annual party over?
In a nutshell, Queen Esther is responsible for foiling the plot hatched by Haman to annihilate the Jews. He enlisted a group to carry out the massacre of all the Jews, and selected the date by casting lots! [That is where the ‘lots’ connection is made.] This all happened when the Jews were living in Persia.
Esther’s uncle, Mordechai, makes Esther (her Hebrew name is Hadassah) aware of the heinous plot to massacre all the Jews. Esther risks life and limb to approach the King (her husband) without the benefit of his permission! Because of his love for her the King grants her an audience. She confesses she is a Jew, and seeks his help in removing Haman. She exposes the terrible plot and Haman is executed
This event is similar in many ways to Hanukkah. Hanukkah commemorates the overthrowing of the enemies of the Jews when the Maccabees triumphed and re-dedicated the Temple to YHVH. So, too, Esther’s courage resulted in the overthrowing of Haman, and preserved the line of Judah. Without the Maccabees, there would have been no Temple in Jerusalem where Yeshua would declare He was the light of the world – and without Esther there would have been no tribe of Judah to produce our Savior as promised in the prophecies!
WHEN IS 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
Isn’t it interesting that Purim is observed on the 14th of the month? The year ends (12th month) with an observation of the 14th day, and it begins in the first month (Aviv) with an important event on the 14th day! That rings a bell for me…but, I digress.
Mordechai declared the date should be remembered with feasting and gladness and Purim has been observed by the Jews ever since! Like any other day of celebration, many traditions have crept into the holiday. The Jews are expert at feasts and gladness, and they are never at a loss for music, dancing and fun! Any excuse to party together is great, and a date to remember how they have triumphed over their adversaries is especially sweet!
Should We Celebrate or Not?
Whether you celebrate Purim or not is up to you. How you observe it is up to you too! It is a tradition, not a commandment! In my life, it is just another reason to learn about YHVH and His care for His people, and another season to celebrate that!
Still miss baking cookies in December? How about baking hamentaschen?! Do you miss dressing up and going to costume balls? No Parades? Do you want an excuse to give others gifts of cookies and candy? If you do, maybe Purim is for you! Just don’t forget the reason for the season <wink.>
It is also a tradition to have a day of fasting on the day before Purim to remember how Esther prayed and fasted before she went to speak to the King. Yes, it was that serious! Could it hurt for us to likewise commemorate this deliverance from persecution and death by prayer and fasting?
The more I take the time to make these days special, the more they make a place in my heart. It is sometimes hard to adopt and establish a different way of life. But, for me and my house, we will serve YeHoVaH! To LIFE! Celebrate it with your family!
Chag Semeach Purim!