Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Purim: No Minor Festival
An old Yiddish saying translated in to English says, “As a high temperature does not denote serious illness, neither is Purim a festival.” Its impression among some that the Feast of Purim is only a minor festival. Although it is true that Purim, a celebration based on the Book of Esther, is not listed in Leviticus 23, there are three important certainties for Israel (all true believers; Jew and Gentile who keep the commands of G-d and the testimony of Yahshua), should not be dismissed.
The first certainty: Persecution
It was because of a personal grudge against Mordechai that Haman (an Amelekite) sought to destroy all Jews of Shushan (Est. 3:6). This was the first attempt of Satan at genocide of G-d’s people. Lots (Purim) were cast, and the 14th of Adar (generally in March), was selected as the day for the annihilation (Est. 3:7). However, in the end, Haman’s plot was foiled, just as will be HaSatan’s in the end evidenced by many scriptures with the finality in the Book of Revelation. From the first victory of the Jewish people over the attempt to wipe them off the earth to now, YHVH Elohim (whose Name is nor mentioned overtly in the book), was praised in a yearly remembrance and celebration called Purim (Est. 9:28). The name Purim is derived from a non-Hebrew word for lots (Est. 3:7; 9:24,26). It is one of Israel’s most joyous holidays, celebrated with noisemakers, dramas, masquerades, and general merriment. A day of fasting is (the fast of Esther), is followed by a special feast featuring hamantaschen (a pastry named for evil Haman), Challah bread, and kreplach (a meat-filled pastry). Gifts of sweets and wine are also exchanged, and money is given to the poor.
YHVH has chosen His people Israel (Dt. 7:7-8) to be the recipients of His revelation. HaSatan has been seeing the destruction of G-d’s people since His fall. Hamans and Hitlers will come and go, but YHVH Elohim will always deliver His people from evil.
All true followers of YHVH/Yahshua HaMoshiach can expect wrath and animosity from those who reject His Torah; the Written and the Living. “yea, and all that will live righteously in Yahshua shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12 as just one of many references to this truth). Therefore, the Torah states, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 Jn. 3:13). Israel will eventually be delivered from all her enemies (Zech. 1:21), and afflictions suffered for the glory of G-d (1 Pet. 4:12-16).
The second certainty: Providence
Of all the women of Shushan, Esther was chosen to be queen (Est. 2:17). In His sovereignty, YHVH placed her in a unique position to be able to exert some influence over the king and save the Jewish people (Est. 4:16). None of these events occurred by accident. Note that Esther had to make a life-changing decision that may have required her to die for her people; a decision in which she had to choose faith and trust in G-d over her human fears. All that occurred in the Book of Esther were the providential workings of YHVH “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).
Throughout Israel’s history, a testimonia; of YHVH Elohim’s providential dealings with His people are clearly seen. This fact is nowhere more evident than in the Book of Esther. Believers may well learn the important lesson that it is not a matter of sheer chance that they find themselves in any situation. “For such as time as this” still poses a challenge to believers in YHVH/Yahshua today, especially in times of crisis. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love YHVH Elohim, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Loving G-d is defined throughout the Torah as those who keep the commands of G-d with a loving heart in the Tanak and the B’rit Chadashah.
The third certainty: Preservation
It is the “hidden YHVH Elohim of Purim,” as the rabbis referred to Him, who best illustrates the truth of preservation. The Jewish people of Shushan were delivered from destruction because of the promise of perpetuation of Israel’s seed (Gen. 13:15-16). This promise includes divine protection for Israel. “Behold, he who keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:40). Again, Israel includes Judah Israel and Ephraim Israel, the two sticks that will be joined into one according to the prophet Ezekiel. It is not a simple matter of Jew and Gentile, but a matter of anyone who wants to be grafted in must carry the testimony of Yahshua and guard the commands of HaShem. Neither simply keeping the commands of G-d without the right spirit nor believing they were all “nailed to the cross” is going to cut it with G-d.
Anti-Semites throughout history have hated the Book of Esther. During the late 1930s, the Nazis forbade its reading in the detention camps. During the Holocaust, the Jewish inmates of Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka, and Bergen-Belsen wrote the Book of Esther from memory and recited it secretly on Purim. No doubt it was also read at other times to offer encouragement. In Romans 8;35-39 the believer can also find encouragement despite life’s difficult circumstances. For nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of YHVH, who is in Yahshua HaMoshiach, our Adonai” (v. 39).
Considering Purim’s timely lessons on the certainties of persecution of the righteous, YHVH Elohim’s providential involvement in the affairs of men, and the joy of YHVH Elohim’s preservation of His own, the feast of Purim is hardly a minor festival!
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart