March 16, 2014, - 8:21 am
Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim, which began yesterday evening. To all my Jewish friends and readers, I wish you a Happy Purim. To all my non-Jewish readers, as I note each year, Purim is kind of like a mix of the Jewish version of St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, but a whole lot more spiritual and meaningful, as it marks how G-d through Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordechai, saved the Jewish people from destruction at the hands of Xerxes I, who at the time was essentially the king of the universe ruling over 100 kingdoms and lands. Xerxes (Achashverosh, in Hebrew), a foolish king, took the advice of his evil, anti-Semitic advisor, Haman, and signed a decree for destruction, which was eventually overcome when Esther let her husband, Xerxes, know she was a Jew and beseeched him to stop the destruction. Yes, it is the same Xerxes depicted in the “300” movies (though I beg to differ with that fictional depiction).
WWII Jewish Welfare Board Purim Postcard Sent Home By U.S. Soldiers
In the past, I’ve posted the Purim postcard, below, from a Jewish U.S. soldier observing the holiday while fighting in World War I. Many U.S. soldiers fighting with the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe sent that home. This year, I post the first one, above, from a Jewish U.S. soldier celebrating Purim during World War II. The JWB symbol stands for Jewish Welfare Board, a Jewish organization that helped American soldiers of all faiths, providing them stationery, postcards, shaving kits, games, meals and drinks, etc. Many Jewish U.S. soldiers sent postcards like the one above home during the war. (You won’t see any Ramadan or Eid Al-Fitr postcards like this from World War II. Muslims didn’t fight most of our wars, and don’t have this long history that Jewish Americans do of fighting for the U.S. in every American war, including the Revolutionary War.)
WWI Jewish Welfare Board Purim Postcard Sent Home By U.S. Soldiers
As I note each year, I love the holiday because it’s got everything that’s politically incorrect, from a worldwide beauty pageant Xerxes holds to find his wife, to the reported back story that Xerxes beheaded–and definitely dumped–his first wife, Vashti, because she wouldn’t come to his party to exhibit her beauty to the men in attendance. The King was advised to do something about it because otherwise, his advisors told him, wives throughout his vast kingdom would disobey their husbands as Queen Vashti did. There’s also Zeresh, the shrewish, henpecking wife of the villain Haman. I imagine her to be something like Hillary Clinton.
And there are a lot of other great things about the holiday and the story behind it that are so fascinating, including many parallels to today: a foolish but powerful king who then was Xerxes, but today is Obama; and a sworn enemy of the Jewish people whose descendants are the Muslims we face today. Sadly, there’s a dearth of Esthers or Mordechais and too many Islamo-pandering masses of my fellow co-religionist Jews who would have sold Esther and Mordechai down the river to get a smile from Haman.
On Purim, we hear the Scroll of Esther read twice and use noisemakers whenever Haman’s name is read. We also eat hamantaschen or ozney haman–triangular pastries with fruit and/or other fillings (like chocolate), meant to represent the pointy, creepy ears of Haman. And no, contrary to Islamic allegations, we don’t use non-Jewish blood to make them. And it’s a commandment to give money/gifts to poor people, as well as gift baskets or bags with at least two ready to eat foods in them. Finally, there is the commandment to eat a big meal. On the holiday, we are supposed to get so drunk that we cannot tell the difference between the hero, Mordechai, and the villain, Haman, but few people actually partake in that because of obvious health, behavioral, and driving reasons. It is a holiday of joy, happiness, and celebration that the Jewish people survived a decree of certain destruction.
Purim Hamantashen Pastry, Queen Esther, Tomb of Mordechai/Esther
Here’s my Debbie’s Notes version of the Purim story, from a previous post on Purim:
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 get rid of her (some say she was beheaded), or else all of the wives throughout his kingdom would take it as an example not to obey their husbands. So, Xerxes gets rid of 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 destruction and live.
The holiday is called Purim because Haman literally conducted a lottery to decide in which month to mass murder the Jews.
And the story is absolutely true. While some wish to believe it isn’t, the tombs of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordechai, are tourist sites marketed by the Ahmadinejad government in modern day Hamadan, Iran (pictured above; Esther is called “Khashayarsh,” there). Yup, gotta love those Iranians–they wanna destroy the Jews just like Haman did, but they continue to use our history to make a buck.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s why we gotta remember our history, lest we repeat it. Attention, Obama-voting Jews . . . .
Tags: Esther, Iran, Jewish Holidays, Jews, Mordechai, Persia, Purim, Xerxes