12 things to know about the Jewish holiday Purim

By Emily Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

The next night, both the king and Haman go to Esther’s party. It is then that Esther finally reveals to the king that Haman's plan to kill all the Jews would include both her and Mordecai. The king, who has just honored Mordecai that day, is angry! Haman’s plan backfires, and the king hangs him on the gallows built for Mordecai.

The win

The king cannot stop the decree against the Jews, but lets Mordecai and Esther write their own decree giving the Jews permission to defend themselves. The Jews win the battle, but do not take any spoil from the battles, only fighting for their lives and right to worship.

Mordecai takes Haman’s place as the new prime minister, Esther remains queen, and the king approves an annual holiday to celebrate the day the Jews were saved.

The celebration

Because this was a political plot, and the people as a nation were saved through good politics, it is more a national holiday than a religious holiday for the Jewish people. However, many Jews do go to the synagogue for a public reading of the Book of Esther, during which there is a tradition to use noisemakers to drown out the name of Haman anytime it is read. There are also gifts of food, gifts to charity, and a festive meal shared.

The play

It is also custom to re-enact the Purim story as a play, the "Purim Spiel," which is popular with children especially in Jewish schools. These are usually funny plays, comedies, and may teach anything about Judaism — not just the story of Esther.

The parties

Because Esther delivered her people by throwing a party for positive politics, Purim is a festive holiday. Many wear masks and costumes to honor Esther, who disguised her religion so that it could be revealed well and at the right time, and to remind them that God “disguised” his presence behind unfolding politics.

The challenge

In celebration Purim, think about ways God is protecting you, delivering you, governing you — even when those ways look like natural or political events. Ponder the context in which you live, or the position in life in which you have been placed. Who around you are you able to rescue, deliver or help in some way? This is righteous dominion — to use your position or authority or resources for good.

Emily Christensen, PhD, lives with her husband Nathan in Owasso, Oklahoma. Her doctorate is in marriage and family therapy. Her blog is www.housewifeclass.com, and she can be contacted at housewifeclass@gmail.com.

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