This is one of the happiest festivals we have. Fairs, games, reading the book of Esther (Hadassah) with groggers and shouting.
For those that don’t know the way we read this book in the Synagogue, groggers (noisemakers) are handed out to everyone, adults and children. When we read the book (it’s short) every time the name of Hamen is said, we use the groggers because his name should be blotted out from memory (he who shall not be named!) When the name of Esther is read, we all say, “aaaahhhhhh” because she was so beautiful, and when Mordecai’s name comes up we all shout, “Yay!!” because he’s the hero.
There is a traditional belief that during the celebration of Purim we are to imbibe so much that we get too drunk to know Mordecai from Hamen, and the favorite food of the night is Hamentashen, a cookie that is shaped like a three-cornered hat (which Hamen is supposed to have worn) and the center is filled with prune (traditional filling), or other fruit jellies, such as apricot or cherry, or even poppy-seed.
One of the more interesting facts about the book of Hadassah (I prefer not to use Esther, because even though that is today considered a “Jewish” name, it is actually a form of the Semitic goddess of fertility, Asherah) is that the name of the Lord is not mentioned anywhere in the book. Not even once. The closest we come to even mentioning there is a God is when Mordecai tells Hadassah, who is trying to avoid going to the king, that if she doesn’t stand up for the people, help will come from another place (implying the Lord.) That’s as close as we get to hearing about God.
I have read that this was done because the book was written in Shushan, and as a form of respect to the royalty they left any specific mention of God out of it. I hope that is wrong; Yeshua told us that if we are ashamed of Him then He will be ashamed of us, and I can’t see someone as fearless as Mordecai, who refused to bow before Hamen, worrying that he might upset the king if he mentions God. I think this lack of God’s name or mention is one mystery that we may never solve.
Another thing I speak out about is that Hadassah, who I have always been taught was brave, wasn’t so brave. When Mordecai asked her to intervene on behalf of the Jewish people the first thing she said was no. True, she didn’t come right out and say, “Hey, Unc: I got mine, so tough for the rest of you.” but she used the excuse that if she went before the king, without being called for, she might die. It was only after Mordecai told her just because she is the queen she won’t escape the fate of the other Jews that she relented. I wonder, reading between the lines, if Mordecai wasn’t saying that somewhere, someone (I don’t think it would ever have been him) who knew Hadassah was a Jew would rat her out in order to try to save their own life. From my perspective, Hadassah had to be coerced into saving her people. That doesn’t detract from the fact that she did risk her life, but she clearly wasn’t up to it without a “push” from good old Uncle Mordecai.
And she isn’t alone. Moses needed more than push, Jonah almost had to drown, and Gideon tested the Lord with sheepskin and morning dew. Twice! Not all the great heros of the Bible were heros right from the start. It reminds me of the parable Yeshua tells of the two sons (it’s in Mattitayu.) The one who first said no but changed his mind is the one that actually did what the father wanted, while the other immediately said he would do as asked, but he never did. The first son, who initially was rebellious and disrespectful, was the one who ended up being the more obedient.
Being a godly person isn’t easy, and often we may find ourselves looking for ways to avoid what God calls us to do. If you see this in yourself, there is no need to berate yourself or feel low, so long as you are working towards obedience. In the end, God wants obedience, and He is more than willing (and He shows this to us throughout the Bible) to overlook any initial reluctance. In the end, it is what we do that counts.
How many times do we read in the Tanakh that God is not pleased with the blood of bulls and rams, but desires obedience over everything else? The answer is: a lot.
When I was in sales I learned that people don’t mean what they say, the mean what they do. God wants us to do, and if we say we don’t want to, so what? I also know that even when I don’t want to do something I know God wants me to do, and even if I do it kvetching and arguing and whining about it, so long as I do it I am pleasing the Lord.
Of course, it would be even more pleasing to Him if I just did it without all the drama. Or better yet, if I did it willingly and cheerfully. Now that, in my case, would be a miracle!
Enjoy this wonderful holiday, and remember what we Jews always like to say as a “short and sweet” condensing of our history:
They tried to kill us, we killed them. Let’s eat!
Take comfort in knowing that the hero’s in the Bible didn’t always start out that way, just as we didn’t start out as Believers. It isn’t what we say, or even what we want, but what we do that will determine our future.
So, nu? What are you doing to determine your future?