What do we learn from Purim?

by Arliene Botnick, February 26, 2017

Purim – a minor celebration.

No time off from work or school; no candle lighting; a brief service that’s usually overshadowed by a farcical play, actors (including Rabbis) in tongue-in-cheek costumes, lots of noise and even, on occasion, alcohol passed around to the congregants. After all, we are commanded to drink and be merry in the month of Adar, the month in which Purim is celebrated.

But Purim has a much deeper significance than hamentashen, shpiels, costumes and ribaldry. Our Rabbis tell us that even in the “olam haba”, the world to come, when all other celebrations cease to exist, we are to continue to celebrate Purim! It’s worth being reminded of Purim’s significance.

There are considered to be 3 main mitzvoth surrounding Purim:

  1. Mishloach manot – sending gifts to family and friends.
  2. Matanot L’evyonim – assisting those in need with donations/gifts
  3. Megillat Esther – Reading the Book of Esther.

We are to remember our family and friends, and to celebrate because we survived the enmity and hatred of Haman. We are to share our good fortune with those in need and we are to read the symbolic story that has been (in one form or another) our history. There were those who wanted to kill us, we stood up and we survived – and we ate!

This is an amazing story. God’s name isn’t mentioned overtly once – a reminder that God helps those who help themselves. It is a woman, Esther, with the encouragement of her uncle Mordechai, who risks her own life by approaching the king to save us. The villain, Haman, is a descendant of Agog, the King of the Amalekites who is the epitome of evil as the King who attacked the Israelites fleeing Egypt from the rear, thus killing the most vulnerable.

We are told to remember to utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek (hence all the noise when we hear Haman’s name). We stamp out, rub out and drown out even the mention of the name of our enemies.

Purim teaches us that evil has always existed, that hatred of our people, antisemitism, has a very long history. Yet this is a joyous holiday, joyous because we survived. Thank God, we keep surviving because there are still Esthers and Mordechais and all those other non-Jewish neighbours as in Shushan who help us win against hatred and evil. So let’s be happy, let’s rejoice. It’s Adar and Purim is coming.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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