The History of Purim - A Brief Synopsis
Danger In Exile
Jewish morale was at an all-time low.
The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, the nation conquered, and for
almost 70 years, had been dispersed in foreign lands. The prophesied end
of Exile had not materialized, and the blight of assimilation had set in.
Just then, the enemy arose to carry out his evil plans. This time it was
Haman. Descended from the Jew-hating tribe of Amalek, Haman devised his
scheme to solve 'the Jewish problem' once and for all, by annihilating every
Jew, men, women and children, throughout the world, in a single day.
Rallying The Jews
And it almost worked. Were it not for Mordechai. A descendent of King
Saul, and advisor to King Achashverosh, Mordechai sensed the danger. Donning
sackcloth and ashes, he went to the gate of the palace, crying aloud, rallying
the Jews to return to Torah. His niece, Queen Esther, called for him. He
told her that she must go to the King and plead for her people. Officially
in disfavor, she feared to go, but saw that she had no choice. She undertook
a three-day fast of penitence, and called upon the whole Jewish people to
do likewise. Then she went to the King.
It is a story of great courage and self-sacrifice--first and foremost
by Queen Esther and Mordechai, and ultimately by the whole Jewish nation.
For throughout the duration of the whole year, not one single Jew chose
to convert, even to save his life. The nation was awakened to a whole-hearted
return to Torah and mitzvot, and throughout the year strengthened their
faith and observance. And in the merit of this, they were able to rise up
against their enemies and destroy them, on the 13th of Adar, the very day
destined for the "final solution." The Jewish people had shown
their true character. They had earned the right to leave Exile, to return
to the Holy Land, and rebuild the Temple. As it was in those days, so may
it be with us today. Each year in fulfilling the special mitzvot of the
Purim festival, we reaffirm our commitment to the eternal values of the
Torah... and we share in the very same merit that redeemed the Jewish people
in the days of Mordechai and Esther.
Purim - Then and Now Remembered and Reenacted
One of the Purim mitzvot is the reading of the Megillah - the Scroll
of Esther, in which the miracle of Purim is recounted. The Talmud tells
us that "whoever reads the Megillah backwards does not fulfill his
obligation." Our Sages explain that "backwards" does not
only mean in reverse order; it also means that whoever reads the Megillah
merely as ancient history has missed the point. The Purim story is directly
relevant to our contemporary world. As the Megillah itself tells us, that
when we celebrate Purim each year, the miraculous events of Purim are "remembered
and reenacted" in our lives.
Haman, Then and Now
One does not have to look far to find Haman's modern-day heirs. Now,
as then, there are evil schemers who seek to scapegoat the Jewish people
and -- Heaven forfend -- to erase us from the face of the earth. Each time
they rise up to destroy us, their schemes are foiled by the miraculous Hand
of G-d. The most striking example in recent times was the Persian Gulf War
that ended victoriously on Purim, 5751 (1991).
From Redemption to Redemption
Throughout our history, we have seen miracles. Despite centuries upon
centuries of persecution, we have survived and flourished, by the Grace
of G-d. Yet we have remained in exile for nearly 2,000 years, hoping and
praying for the final and complete Redemption -- the Redemption that will
end suffering and exile forever. May the observance of Purim be a precursor
to the coming of Moshiach, our Righteous Redeemer, whose imminent arrival
will bring about a better life for all the nations of the world