Friday, 25 March 2011

Why We Celebrate Purim

Boker Tov
(Good Morning)
We have been a little busy the past week with preparing for Purim. And now that Purim is gone for another year, we are still recovering from the joy of the holy day and preparing for the next, Passover. But I still like to look back...

 When Darius decreed that the Jews could return back to their homeland, Israel, not every Jew family went. They were happy just where they were in. In fact, Jews lived in all one and twenty-seven provinces of King Ahasuerus.
 In the days of old, in Persia, our forefathers became to assimilate into the Persian culture. To the point that many Jews gave off living as Jews and could blend in nicely with their Persian neighours; working, marrying and table fellowship. This led to compromise for our people.
King Ahauerus was a man known to be ruled by his emotions, his passions.
Not a good thing for a leader.
Most know the story :King Ahasuerus, often identified as King Xerxes, held a one hundred eighty-day feast to exemplify his opulence of his finest capital, Shushan.
 Scripture reference in Esther 1:6-7 speaks highly of the feast, mentioning the "marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stone, etc"
 All one hundred twenty seven provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia gathered to acknowledge the King.
 Drunk with wine and his own self-importance, the King ordered Queen Vashti to before him and his guest. Wearing nothing but the royal jewels expose herself.
This is the part you never hear in Sunday School.
Vashti is a woman of integrity and  refuses her husband’s demand to display her  beauty before the King’s drunken subordinates.  Concubines and whores appear before drunken feasts, not Queens. 
 Vashti refused the humiliating order, knowing that she was risking death. Sadly, Vashti is often painted as a bad example to g-dly women for disobeying her husband's command. Really?
First, we have no record of Vashti of being a G-d fearer and two no loving husband, g-d fearing or notm would expose his wife in such a matter. No man who and honours his wife would demand she show only that which he is to enjoy, now would he???
However, Ahasuerus isn't that sort of husband.
 Infuriated, the King instead listens to the advise of several hen pecked husbands to have Vashti  banished from his presence, making her an example to other wives so that they would not make the same decision and disobey their husbands. In all one hundred and twenty-seven provence.
Imagine President Obama getting mad at Mrs. Obama, kicks her out of the house and then writes into law all wives HAVE to obey their husbands.
 Several days later, King Ahasuerus comes to his senses and "remembered Vashti" the wife  he went away, the woman he loved. So before the King Ahasuerus his mind (again) the nobles suggest search for beautiful women to take the place of Queen Vashti.
He agreed.
So the search was on. The King sought beautiful young virgins, among who at this time was a girl about fourteen years old. The King's search for a new queen would open the window to fulfill God's will for Esther and the Jewish people.

Unlike the movie One Night With the King and other movies, the girls, including Esther were not kidnapped, but brought to the Palace willingly. It was Uncle Mordecai's idea and Hadassah (Esther)
For twelve months the young, hopeful girls were being prepared in the harem with beauty treatments of oils, perfumes, massages, and hairstyles to enrich their attractiveness. Everything about these girls changed; right down to their scent. This wasn't just a year long beauty treatment; think Total Make-Over.
 The girls were also made "chamber ready". Which means, knowing what pleases the King in the chamber. If you notice, these young ladies never return home. Read the scripture carefully. If the young lady wasn't chosen as queen, she was taken to the harem, becoming part of the concubine. She would not go into the King again unless she delighted him and he called for her by name. (Makes you rethink a few worship songs, doesn't it?)
Esther, who was lovely inside and out, found favor with all who knew her. Those appointed to care for her wanted her to be queen.
So ddid G-d. For He alone knew what laid ahead.
 The long awaited evening came when Esther had her opportunity to display her presence to the King. In awe, the King "loved Esther above all the other virgins and she found grace and favor in sight of Esther, declaring her his queen. To celebrate his marriage, "He granted a remission of taxes…and gave gifts with royal liberality." (Esther 2:18)
Now, Uncle Mordecai also told Esther not to reveal who she was, a Hebrew, a Jew. To protect Esther in the harem, and to prevent discrimination and hostility toward her, Mordecai ordered Esther to hide her Jewishness. She obeyed, as she always did.
Things are find for a while. Mordecia is happy, the King is happy and Esther appears to be happy as well.
But then here comes Haman and because Mordecia will not pay the dude homage (show him respect) Haman not only wishes to kill Mordecia, but all the Jews in the Kingdom. He went to the King and telling him of the disloyality of the Jews, suggested that every jewish man, woman and child be put to death.
So with a roll of Hman's dice, the Hit was ordered and soon young queen Esther, who was six-teen and twenty years old, found herself in the fight of her life, pleading for the lives of her people.
Like Vashti, Esther disobeys the King: unlike Vashti, Esther's life is spared. The King, having lost one queen he loved, did not wish to lose his Esther and welcomed her.
Her life and the Jews lives are spared and the death meant for Mordecia, was Haman's.
Since the decree could not be undone, the King decreed that the Jews had the right to defend themselves on the day slated for their deaths.
 Esther 8:17: "and many of the people  became Jews that day because of the fear of the Jews." Not only did Haman fail to rid the earth of jews, but more were added to our numbers.
So we celebrated, remembering this day, for if it hadn't been for G-d working through a teenage queen, there would be no jews, no bible and no little Baby born in Bethlehem.
So I raise my glass in celebration.
But I don't get drunk :)

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