The Essence of Purim And The Scroll of Esther

The Essence of Purim And The Scroll of Esther

Purim is often perceived as a relatively ‘unserious’ holiday, a playful day of drinking, celebrations, and costumes. However, the essence of the Scroll of Esther lies in the unity and awakening of Israel amidst terrible threats. The unity that Mordecai and Esther managed to forge following Haman’s terrible decree.

In short, the scroll describes how King Ahasuerus banished his wife Vashti and married Esther in her place. Esther, with great resourcefulness and the help of Mordechai, utilized her position as queen of Persia to thwart the plot of Haman, one of Ahasuerus’ ministers, to exterminate all the Jews in the kingdom of Persia.

According to the sages, until the appearance of Haman, there was no precedent for the attempted extermination of the Jewish people on such a scale; this is why the scroll is so important. Esther, one of the seven prophetesses, prophesied that the events recounted in the scroll were not a ‘one-time thing,’ but unfortunately would repeat themselves many times in the history of the Jewish people.

‘If one reads the Megillah out of order, he has not fulfilled his obligation’ (Megilla 2:1). This means that whoever reads the scroll and perceives the events as matters belonging only to the past, and not to the present and, sadly, perhaps forever, has not fulfilled his duty.

The foundation of excessive drinking in Purim lies in the understanding of the term ‘ad lo yada’ (Until one no longer knows). It is an attempt to return to the state of the first man before the sin of the tree of knowledge, in a reality where the world was naturally divided into good and bad for all to see. The Book of Esther teaches us that even in a situation of Holocaust and anti-Semitism our unity can reverse the decree, sometimes overnight. This is the main message of the holiday. In the shadow of these difficult times, we will turn sadness and sorrow into joy.

We wish you a Purim filled with laughter and joy, and we pray for the safe return of all the hostages and IDF soldiers.

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