March 2, 2007, - 2:00 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
To my Jewish friends and readers, I wish you a Happy Purim. The holiday begins at sundown, Saturday Night, and lasts until Sunday Night.
To all of my readers, especially those who don’t know what Purim is: Purim literally means “lots” or “lottery.” It’s one of my two favorite Jewish holidays (the other is Channukah). It’s a like a Jewish St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween combined. Read my previous post on the holiday is here.
The holiday celebrates courageous Jewish heroes Esther and Mordechai, who risked their lives to save the Jewish people during the time of King Xerxes. It’s a very cool, true story. And it has special significance for today, because it occured in the land of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran. In those days the King was going to destroy the Jews (at the behest of his anti-Semitic advisor who spewed the same hate as Ahmadinejad), yet we survived. And we will survive similar calls, today, for our destruction by Ahmadinejad. It’s interesting to note that the gravesites of the heroes of the Purim story, Esther and Mordechai–located in Hamadan, Iran–are still marketed, today, as tourist attractions by the Ahmadinejad government of Iran.
Here’s my “Debbie’s Notes” version of the Purim story:
King Xerxes I, in the 5th Century B.C., was King of Persia, though he ruled most of the world, as his kingdom consisted of 127 states and provinces. He had a beautiful wife, Vashti, who refused to show up to his big, boozed-up party with the Kingdom’s men. He wanted to show her off, but she didn’t want to leave her own party. He was advised that he should behead her, or else all of the wives throughout his kingdom would take it as an example not to obey their husbands. So, Xerxes beheaded her and held a giant beauty pageant throughout his entire kingdom (the first Miss Universe pageant). Eventually, he chose the the beautiful, Jewish Esther as his queen. Esther hid her Judaism from the king and her uncle, Mordechai, once overheard a plot to kill the king, which he exposed. For that, he was honored by the King.
Haman, the king’s trusted advisor, hated Mordechai because he would not bow down to Haman (he would only bow down to G-d). Haman was henpecked by his ambitious wife, Zeresh, who was kind of like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. And he had ten sons who were equally pushy.
Soon, Mordechai found out that Haman wanted to annihilate the entire Jewish population of the world (and hang Mordechai), and he got King Xerxes to sign a decree ordering that. The Jews fasted and mourned over their impending destruction, and Mordechai beseeched Esther to appeal to the King to save the Jews.
One night, Esther approached the King (against protocol because only the King could summon the queen, not vice versa–and she could have been beheaded for this; it wasn’t exactly the days of Hillary Clinton wearing the pants). She invited him to a dinner, where she told him that she was Jewish and of the plans to annihilate her people. King Xerxes was angry when he learned of this and had Haman hung on the gallows prepared for Mordechai. He also agreed to try to stop this and arm the Jewish people so they could respond to the decree for their destruciton and live.
The holiday is called Purim because Haman literally conducted a lottery to decide in which month to mass murder the Jews.
On the holiday, we, Jews, celebrate the survival of our people from this order of mass destruction. It is a good deed to become so drunk that you can’t tell the difference between hero Mordechai and villain Haman. We also are commanded to give at least two ready-to-eat foods to friends (we deliver it to their homes) and to the poor. Kids dress up in costumes, usually as Purim characters. We eat pastries known as “hamantaschen” or ears or Haman (because he was evil and legend had it that he had vulcan-like, pointy ears). And we are commanded on Purim to have a giant feast. M
ost important, we listen to the reading of the Scroll of Esther (“Megillat Esther”), which recounts the whole wonderful story. I love reading it, because each time you learn and notice new cool things about the story.
So, to all of my friends who are Jewish, I wish you a very joyous Purim. And to those who are not Jewish, I suggest that you read the Scroll of Esther, as it is part of the Bible. And it is a great story about the commitment to faith, which I think you’ll find as interesting and inspiring as I do.
As I said, we survived Haman in ancient Iran. And we will survive his current incarnation in modern Iran, Ahmadinejad.
Tags: Ahmadinejad government, anti-Semitic advisor, British Columbia, Debbie Schlussel, Esther, Halloween, Hamadan, Haman, Hillary Clinton, Islamic Republic of Iran, King, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mordechai, Nancy Pelosi, Purim, Queen, Saturday Night, St. Patrick's Day, trusted advisor, Vashti, Zeresh