Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Story of Purim (Part 1)

4th of Adar, 5770

Approximately 2400 years ago, the Persian Empire was ruled by King Achashverosh. It extended from India to Ethiopia. It was the largest empire in ancient history. Approximately 1 million Jews lived in the empire, including 40,000 in the land of Israel, trying to rebuild the Bet haMikdash under the leadership of Ezra and Nechemia.

Some Jews lived in the capital of the empire: Shushan haBira. Achashverosh, apparently sensing threats to his life, appointed a very tough prime minister: Haman and gave him full authority to do as he pleases over the empire. Haman not only demanded obedience from all but also expected a kind of personal cult or worship: everyone had to bow down (fully bow down!) upon seeing him.

Mordechai was a leader among the Jews in Shushan. His niece, Esther, was taken to the palace and recently designated as the new Queen. Mordechai respected the king and even thwarted a plot against the King’s life, but refused to bow down to Haman. The prime minister was furious and decided to take revenge from Mordechai. He thought that just killing Mordechai will not do justice to the great personal offense. He decided then to exterminate all of Mordechai’s people: the Jews. Once again, we are not talking just about the Jews living in Shushan but all the Jews living in the Persian Empire, who were indeed all the Jews in the world!!! Had Haman succeeded, it would have been our end….

(to be continued....)