What is Purim?-A Jewish Holiday of Salvation and Giving
Purim is a festive Jewish holiday, timely even today, commemorating and celebrating the salvation of the Jewish people from the threat of annihilation during the time of the ancient Persian Empire. Even centuries later, the modern State of Israel and the Jewish people face similar threats against it from today’s leaders of Persia. The Holiday of Purim takes on an even greater level of importance and meaning when considering Persia’s repeated call for Israel’s destruction.
During the reign of King Xerxes the first ( more commonly known in traditional Jewish texts as Ahasuerus), the Persian empire ruled over 127 lands and countries. Haman, Persia’s Prime Minister, drew up a plan to destroy the Jewish people throughout the empire, and selected the equivalent Hebrew date of the 14th of Jewish month of Adar, as the date on which he would initiate his plan.
The leader of the Jewish community in Persia at that time, Mordecai, initiated his own plan to save his people from destruction. When King Xerxes mounted a selection ritual to choose his new Queen, Mordecai entered his niece, Esther, into the competition while hiding her Jewish background from the Judges and the King himself.
Esther, was beautiful in appearance, to the point where she found favor in the eyes of all those who beheld her’, especially King Xerxes who chose her to be his new Queen. Mordecai called on all the Jewish people throughout the empire to pray to G-d and to fast for their salvation, and began coaching Queen Esther in his plan to save their people.
At the proper time, when Haman began losing the trust of his King through a series of Divinely ordained events, Esther disclosed her Jewish background to her husband the King, even suggesting that she would become a victim of Haman’s murderous intent along with her people. Xerxes responded by handing Haman over to his executioner and gave all the Jews throughout his empire the right to defend themselves and even to crush all those who sought to destroy them.
Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai, who replaced Haman as King Xerxes’ Prime Minister, issued an order to the Jewish people to celebrate the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar as a holiday of salvation and joy from that day forward. The Book of Esther, was written as a Testament to the events of that period and is read aloud on the Purim holiday. As a part of the Purim celebration, gifts are exchanged between friends and neighbors and it is customary to pay special attention to orphans, widows, and the poor by providing therm with presents of food and funds to ensure their ability to celebrate the holiday in a festive spirit.
The Purim Holiday is a popular and highly celebrated day in Israel on which both children and adults dress in costume to attend parties and holiday events. The joy of the holiday is especially felt by people of all ages and most families traditionally gather for a festive family meal.