Sunday, March 8, 2009

Purim 2009

The origins of Purim grow out of the Esther narrative. The story of Esther, is a work of fiction, a fantastic tale, regaling of how a beautiful Jewish orphan becomes the Queen of Persia. (Circa 4000B.C.E.) Esther saves the Jewish community of the Persian Empire from annihilation as desired by the anti Semite and descendant of the intractable foe of the Jews, Haman.

The holiday of Purim was probably modeled after the ancient spring festival celebrating light and warmth after a long winter. It is a holiday that indirectly celebrates the victory of good over bad; the supremacy of light over darkness; and the dominance of good and order over evil and chaos. Added to this is the personal experience of the Jewish people – survival as a people in spite of the attempts by anti Semites to annihilate us.

The Purim story is unique in that it treats our delivery from evil with decided humor and irreverence. Perhaps this is the reason why God is never mentioned. The story is a spoof. It tells of the King’s feast lasting 180 days celebrating his good fortune, topping it off with a 7 day blow out party of debauchery with no restrictions on alcoholic consumption. Vashti, his queen is commanded to make a nude appearance which she refuses to do and thus sets in motion her fall and the rise of her replacement.

Ahaseurus is urged to replace Vashti since her refusal to obey the king might be misconstrued by his subjects as a signal for all women of the kingdom to disobey their husbands. To assure that there is no misunderstanding among his subjects he sends out a royal letter urging men to exercise control over their women. In the meantime the king launches a national search for the most beautiful woman in the realm. His campaign ignites the imagination and hopes of every damsel almost in the same way that American Idol has lit the hopes and dreams of aspiring entertainers. After many competitions and contests the semi-finalists spent a year primping in beauty spas and soaking in oil of myrrh, and of course Esther emerges as Ms Persia ultimately being crowned queen.

In her position as queen, she became privy to information regarding plots to overthrow the king as well as the evil intentions to have the Jews killed. By manipulating the right people and exploiting events she was able to maneuver things in such a way that she was able to expose the real culprits and win the day for the Jewish people. The Scroll of Esther goes into much greater detail and is read in synagogues as a way of marking and celebrating the holiday of Purim.