The joyous festival of Purim is still celebrated some 2,500 years after it was established to celebrate the Jews’ victory in the face of imminent annihilation. The Purim history holds timeless lessons and has never lost its relevance, now seemingly more than ever as Israel’s enemies loom threatening.
A Quick Recap of the Purim Story
Let’s look at a quick recap of what happened, as related in the book of Esther. Ahasuerus, King of Persia, was advised to choose a new queen after his wife Vashti dishonored his requests. A beauty contest of sorts was held, and Esther, a Jew–whose heritage was unknown to many—was chosen as the new queen. She was called upon to use her position to plead on behalf of the Jewish people when Haman, an evil prince, conspired to attack and destroy the Jewish people, on a day chosen by lots (“pur” is the word for lots, and “Purim” is its plural form). It was then that Esther’s relative Mordechai encouraged her to entreat the king, exhorting Esther with words that should resonate with us today: “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief.. will arise for the Jews from another place, but you… will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
"Hamantaschen" are traditional Purim pastries, usually filled jelly
Esther told the King about the plight of her people; he was enraged, Haman was executed, and a counter-decree in defense of the Jews was issued. On the day chosen for their destruction, the Jews—as well as many non-Jews, on whom “fear of the Jews” had fallen—rose up and defeated their antisemitic enemies. Purim would be remembered throughout the ages as a time when instead of destruction, there was deliverance and, “the Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor.”
It’s easy when writing a synopsis like this to oversimplify or leave out important context, so I encourage everyone to read the thrilling book of Esther yourself, as many Jews—and friends of the Jewish people—do every Purim.
"The similarities jump from the pages"
The similarities between Israel’s situation then and now jump from the pages. Israel has many enemies who still seek its destruction. Interestingly enough, today it’s the nation of Iran—formerly Persia—that poses the greatest threat to Israel’s security. But there are also more modern-day Hamans closer to home. They’re in governments sanctioning Israel, at the United Nations condemning Israel, and in our universities proclaiming anti-Israel lies. Antisemitism is a slippery slope of ugliness that leads to horrific ends, the most prominent example being the Holocaust.
Yet there is also a bitter end for nations that come against God’s people. The Jewish people remain and the mighty empires of old lie in the ash heap of history. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome are long gone and Israel prospers on. Judgment will come again in the future on nations that oppose Israel.
The challenge to modern-day lovers of Israel
The challenge for us, as lovers of Israel, is to not be complicit in attacks against Israel through apathy and silence. We all know the mantra about what happens when good people do nothing, but how often are we seeking and embracing causes worth fighting for? The nation of Israel will continue to endure, but at what price? How many Jews will die before we say “enough!”?
When the antisemites of Esther’s time came to destroy the Jewish people, they came up against Gentiles who “...helped the Jews, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.” I don’t think fear is, or should be, our primary motivator for supporting Israel today.
Faith and love lived out!
What my family has seen instead as we share about Judea and Samaria to people around the United States, are friends of Israel motivated by faith and love. Faith in God’s promises and love for His chosen people and land. Our desire is to share about opportunities for you to express that faith and love in tangible ways.
Since the Jewish People began returning to and restoring the Land of Israel in the last 150 years, the world has witnessed some of the most beautiful and powerful validations of God’s word in history! There is much to be excited about today: the exiles have returned, the holy language revived, and the land is flourishing. But that bright future we all look forward to is going to take persistent work. It takes us continuing to stand against the enemies of God’s people, those who want to see His land divided and His people scattered once again.
I like to take events like Purim as an opportunity to remind myself of what’s at stake. Many realize we are at a critical point in history; the differences between light and darkness, good and evil, have in many ways become more clear. Today, let us be the Esthers, Mordechais, and God fearers who join with the Jewish people and courageously resist evil.
With the Jewish people back in their own land, we can do so much more than just take a stand against evil. We can stand for and support what’s good and beautiful! Encourage and invest in the faithful Jews restoring and building Judea and Samaria so Israel can continue fulfilling its destiny as a light to the nations! Happy Purim!