Purim is the most joyous holiday on the Jewish calendar. It is a holiday of victory of freedom and goodness over evil. Purim is celebrated in remembrance of the salvation of the Jewish people from complete extermination during the last years of Babylonian captivity (539-331 BC).
The story described in the book of Esther happened in a town called Shushan; later to be called Persia, now modern-day Iran. Its main heroes are Queen Esther, her cousin Mordecai and then the cruel and corrupt Haman who was the most trusted dignitary of the Persian King Xerxes.
The story tells us about Haman who got angry with a Jew (Mordecai) whom he felt did not show him proper respect. So Haman decided to take revenge on Mordecai. However, he considered it beneath his dignity to take revenge only on Mordecai which is why he developed a plan to exterminate ALL Jews at once.
The holiday got its name from the word “pur” (lots) because superstitious Haman cast lots in order to determine the best date to exterminate the Jewish people.
To carry out his anti-Semitic actions, Haman won the support of King Xerxes promising him great wealth. Haman adduces arguments to the “persuasive” speech to the king. The anti-Semites use these arguments even today. Haman said, “There are a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them." (Esther 3: 8). The king agreed with the plan of his dignitary. However, neither of them knew that Queen Esther, the favorite wife of Xerxes, was Jewish.
Although the king’s decree was kept secret, the Jewish people found out about it. Mordecai asked Esther to go to the king to plead for mercy for her people. Queen Esther was afraid to appear before the king without invitation knowing it might cost her life. But, Mordecai insisted, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14). Mordecai was certain that everything that was happening with the Jews was under God’s control.
To pave the way for the miracle’s manifestation, the nation of Israel cried out to the Lord in fasting, weeping and prayer. After 3 days of fasting, and at the risk of her own life, Esther went to the king who accepted her. She told her husband about Haman’s plot and begged him to be merciful with her people. The Jewish people were saved. Haman was punished according to the "an eye for an eye" principle. Haman was hanged upon the very pile he had prepared for Mordecai and Mordecai in turn was appointed with Haman’s position.So, Haman became a symbol of Jews haters, leaving Egyptian pharaoh (from the time of Exodus) behind him and in anticipation of Hitler and Stalin. Russian speaking Jews always remember that the “Haman of the XX century”, Joseph Stalin, died specifically on Purim, not allowing him to finish a massive execution of Jewish doctors that was planned for the next day. So, is it a wonder we have not forgotten this seemingly minor story account for more than 2,500 years? Things that might seem to be a random collection of coincidental circumstances surely testify about supernatural interference of the almighty God.
We celebrate Purim as the most cheerful of holidays which revives assurance in us that our great God is with us! On Purim day, we remind ourselves once again that God is faithful to the promises He gave to the nation He chose. Purim’s triumph shows us the power of life of the Jewish people. The manifestation of this triumph is revealed before the eyes of all of Haman’s heirs; all those who would like to continue doing his dirty work. The enemy’s forces will never conquer God’s chosen people. This fact brings us courage and joy.
Purim is a day of Victory! It is a triumph of justice and God’s love!
Without the intercession of our Almighty God, we would have already been wiped off the face of the earth. However, we’re alive! We are here! We rejoice! We praise God and are proud of our Mordecais and Esthers!
Despite the fact that the Book of Esther has a happy ending, we consider the validity of the Jewish proverb, “So many Hamans, and only one Purim."
Haman's ears are considered to be a traditional dish enjoyed by many today each Purim.