In just a few days, we will be celebrating one of the most joyous Jewish holidays, Purim. We wear costumes, eat hamantaschen, and dance with frivolity. And yet, the holiday is one woven with a serious story. Queen Esther is chosen to save the Jewish people from impending doom. She and Mordecai are unsure of the King’s approach. Will he take sides with the evil Haman or will Esther’s courage nudge the King to tip the scales towards a righteous victory?
I recently learned that historically, Jewish communities throughout the world have declared multiple Purims. In Philip Goodman’s The Purim Anthology, we glean that “private families often instituted the observance of a Purim to mark an escape from a danger that may have threatened the patriarch of the family or possibly the whole family.” There was a separate Purim commemoration instituted by the Jews of Shiraz in Persia, a Purim of Castile, a Second Purim of Saragossa, a Purim in Prague, and more. These Purim holidays were celebrated in addition to the merriment surrounding Esther and Mordecai. Whenever and wherever the Jews were threatened, there was an opening to gather, sometimes refrain from eating to mark the day’s solemnity, and then feast to acknowledge the ability to seize another day of life.
It is a beautiful lesson of our tradition. Purim should be taught as the eternal reminder to our people: we will not let the voices of evil diminish and destroy our Jewish spirit. Just last week, the Jewish world was told to keep watch as a “Day of Hate” was declared by antisemitic forces. In a sense, another Purim was brought forth. Last Shabbat, Jews around the world lit candles, baked challah, attended Shabbat dinners, gathered in prayer, and like Queen Esther, stood with pride for who we are and who we will always be.
Our history teaches a harsh reality: we may have many more Purims to commemorate in our lifetime. But our history also teaches a hopeful silver lining. With the Hamans of each generation, take note:
We’re still here.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.