March 14, 2006, - 10:41 am

Happy Purim!: Holiday Has Lessons for Today (Esp. Iran)

By Debbie Schlussel
To my Jewish friends and readers, Happy Purim! To ALL of my friends and readers:
Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim (the Festival of Lots), which started at sundown, yesterday. It’s sort of like a Jewish version of St. Patrick’s Day & Halloween mixed together.
The true story of Purim reads like a Medieval episode of “24.” It took place in ancient Persia (now Iran) and involves a dopey King, an evil advisor, a beheaded Queen, and a beauty pageant of beautiful women throughout the world. But most of all, Purim celebrates the survival of the Jewish people in the days that Persian King Xerxes ruled the world. Unbeknownst to him, his evil advisor, Haman, decreed to destroy the Jewish people.

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Purim Hamantashen Pastry, Queen Esther, Tomb of Mordechai/Esther

The charming story of the holiday is one that real men and women will love, but feminists would hate. Here’s my summary of the story (contained at length in the Scroll of Esther a/k/a Book of Esther):

The story starts when the Fifth Century B.C.E. Persian King, Xerxes I (a/k/a Ahaseurus), is partying with his subjects and demands that his wife Queen Vashti come to his party so he can show off her beauty. She refuses. Because of this, King Xerxes realizes that if he allows this, women throughout his kingdom–which spans the world–will disrespect and disobey their husbands, so he deposes Vashti (the story is that he has the Queen beheaded). Xerxes decides to hold a year-long beauty pageant of women selected from the best-looking virgins throughout his worldwide kingdom of 127 states and provinces.
From all these women, Xerxes picks the winner of the pageant, the beautiful Esther (from whom the unworthy Madonna took her adopted Hebrew name), who marries Xerxes and becomes his new queen. She is Jewish, but keeps her Jewish identity a secret out of fear and instruction from her uncle, Mordechai. Mordechai, who raised Esther–an orphan–as his child, overhears of an assassination plot against Xerxes, which he reports to Esther. Mordechai is a hero for saving the King’s life.
Xerxes promotes an evil man named Haman to Grand Vizier (Prime Minister)–his top advisor, and at the King’s command, everyone is supposed to bow down to Haman. Mordechai refused, because it was against Mordecai’s Jewish religious beliefs to bow before anyone except God. Haman’s reaction was to organize a mass persecution and murder of all Jewish people throughout Xerxes’ Persian kingdom, which, again, spanned most of the known world at the time.
Haman casts lots (which is “Purim,” in Hebrew) to decide in which month to murder the Jews. Haman then distributes orders to slay all Jews on the thirteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar. The Jews fast and mourn. At Uncle Mordechai’s request, Queen Esther intercedes on behalf of the Jewish people throughout the world, risking her life by going to the King and telling him of Haman’s plan. At a royal court bash, the tipsy Ahasuerus promises his beautiful Queen anything she could ask for, even half his kingdom. What Esther requested instead was the release of her people from Haman’s genocidal plan, of which the King knew nothing. The King agrees to stop this and provide for the Jews to defend themselves. The King is angered by Haman’s mischief, and Haman and his sons are hanged from the very gallows Haman built to hang Mordechai. The Jews are saved, and we celebrate the holiday of Purim to commemorate this.

Again, this is a true story, and Esther’s and Mordechai’s tombs are located in Hamadan, Iran. It was a popular tourist site when Iran was still a popular tourist destination–until the Shah was deposed by the Xerxes-esque Jimmy Carter.
On this holiday of Purim, people dress up in costumes, and it’s a good deed to drink so much you can’t tell the difference between the villain of the Purim, Haman, and the hero, Mordechai. We eat three cornered pastries called “Hamantashen” (“Ears of Haman”) that are supposed to symbolize the pointy ears of the King’s evil advisor. On this joyous holiday, it is Jewish law to give donations of food and money to poor people and at least two ready to eat food items to at least one person. We listen to the reading of the Scroll of Esther and use noisemaker whenever Haman’s name is uttered.
The story of Purim is symbolic, for today, the setting of the evil Purim genocide plot is now the site of a similar modern day plot. Instead of a clueless king and an evil advisor who can be eliminated, the ruler of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is himself, the modern day Haman, the modern day Hitler. Will we continue in silly, fruitless negotiations to try to stop his nuclear ambitions? Or will we take him out the way Haman was taken out?
Only time will tell. But we don’t have a lot of time left. There don’t seem to be any Esthers or Mordechais among us, unfortunately, to save the day.

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11 Responses

I seriously doubt that there is a woman as beautiful or influential as Esther to convince the mad Mullahs that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad needs a good 1-1/4″ 7-braid rope strung around his neck. It’s going to take a laser-guided MOAB of precise aim to do the job.

Yiddish Steel on March 14, 2006 at 2:18 pm

Happy Purim!
For those who have read the Quran, the story of Moses and the tribes of Israel is one of the most important part of the Quran. When I first read the Quran (as a child) I was surprised by the details given to the stories of Moses, tribes of Israel, Pharaoh and the rest. I would refer the people who call Jews the sons of monkeys and pigs to read the Quran and see how much God loved Moses and all people including the children of Moses.
In fact according to Islamic traditions, there was contemplation in the beginning to call the ‘Quran’ the book of Moses.

lawman on March 14, 2006 at 4:36 pm

Umm, lawman, sure, G-d loves the Jews, but apparently Mohammed didn’t. He certainly murdered his share of Jewish men, and then sold their wives and children into slavery . . . except for the one Jewish woman he kept for himself. She may have been as beautiful as Esther. So maybe there was one Jew he loved.

sonofsheldon on March 14, 2006 at 8:35 pm

Lame man:Nice try . muslim love?Yea right.

danny on March 15, 2006 at 2:43 pm

Sonofsheldon,
You can learn about Muhammad or the Quran from Bin Laden and get angry together in an orgy of mutual hate.
The hate hurts the hater more than the hated.
Peace!

Justice4god on March 15, 2006 at 5:29 pm

Justice4god and lawman are both my ids, so as to dispel any confusion.

Justice4god on March 15, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Lame-man +Justice4;We are learning about your Muhammad and your Quran by the actions of your ‘religion’ and that IS one huge orgy of hate.Orgy of hate + Muslim are interchangeable.

danny on March 15, 2006 at 8:24 pm

lawman,
Sure, let’s get together. Danny, why don’t join us too. We can relax over a plate of hammentashen, sip some hot chocolate and learn of the peace and love for all people that is part and parcel of the Quran.
Are you married? Bring the little woman. You too, Danny. Our wives can trade recipes, or lovingly discuss what slobs we men are.
And what about kids? Let them tag along. They can play pool in the basement, take the dogs for a run in the backyard or just hang out and listen to music and talk about school.
Lawman, (and Danny) while we are enjoying our peacful afternoon, full of fun, family, and Quran, you must explain this hadith to me: Ôø?The Hour [the Day of Judgement] will not begin until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. A Jew will hide behind a rock or a tree, and the rock or tree will say, Ôø?O Muslim, O slave of Allaah! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!Ôø? Ôø? except for the gharqad (box thorn), for it is one of the trees of the Jews.Ôø?
Without meaning to dwell in negativity, that doesn’t sound too loving to me. And of course, now that we are pals, I wouldn’t impugn your honesty, but perhaps you are leaving out some parts of the Islamic literature, and ignoring some (a few maybe?) acts of violence perpretrated by Muslims throughout the centuries on us non-Muslims, or as we are so giddily referred to, the infidels. How about it, Lawman, old buddy, old pal?

sonofsheldon on March 15, 2006 at 9:50 pm

Madonna is not worthy of the Hebrew name Esther.

tingoddess on March 16, 2006 at 11:21 am

Safty of america.for me this is all that has to matter.it’s to bad if we give up some rights for now I have nothing to hide.many are pissed their picture or sound may be watched.too bad lame-man;just4g-d;,for now when you do go to potlucks at the park with the wife …./i love knowing we are watched.and after the next attack you and your’s will have to hide.No?

danny on March 16, 2006 at 2:51 pm

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