Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction recorded in the book of Esther (between 483-471 B.C.). Haman, representative of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I of Persia), became angry with Mordecai when he refused to bow down to him. Knowing that Mordecai was Jewish, Haman came up with a plot to kill all the Jews in the empire. In the hope of stopping his plan, Mordecai persuaded Queen Esther (his cousin) to talk to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, putting her own life at risk. After fasting for three days, Esther went to the king and eventually told him of Haman’s plot. The Jewish people were saved and Haman and his sons were hanged. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
Purim is celebrated by reading the Scroll of Esther, giving gifts of food and drink and giving charity to the poor. As the Scroll is being read, each time Haman’s name is said, the listeners boo, hiss and spin noisemakers called gragers, in order to “blot out the name of Haman.”
Hamantaschen, a three-corner cookie filled with poppy seeds, prunes, or other fruits is traditionally made and given to friends and neighbors. Hamantaschen is a German/Yiddish word meaning “Haman’s pockets,” or “Haman’s ears.” Kreplach, another festive dish, is made of noodle-like triangular pieces of dough, stuffed with a chopped meat and onion filling, and served in a thick soup as part of the holiday meal.
Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes and public celebration. There is singing, dancing, and an almost carnival-like atmosphere. The most controversial aspect of the Purim celebration is found in the Talmud: “It is the duty of a man to mellow himself [with wine] on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordecai’’ (Megillah 7b).
Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of Adar, the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, Purim is instead celebrated on the 15th of the month on what is known as Shushan Purim. Today, only Jerusalem celebrates Purim on the 15th.
Genesis 12:3 says “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” God was and is faithful to His promises. Anytime His people are threatened with destruction, God will intervene because His character is at stake. We as believers in Yeshua have reason to celebrate. God’s consistent protection of the Jewish people should give us a sense of hope and security. God is a covenant-keeping God who is faithful to every generation.