Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
Purim and its significance Wednesday night March 23rd & Thursday March 24th
The events of Purim occurred while the world was ruled by King Achashvairosh of the Persian Empire. At this time the Jews were exiled from Israel as a result ofthe Babylonian conquest of the Land and the destruction of their Temple in Jerusalem.
The Prophet Jeremiah had prophesied that the Jews would return to Israel after 70 years of exile. The question at hand was when did the 70 years begin? King Achashvairosh was convinced that 70 years had lapsed and the Jews were no longer worthy of rebuilding their Temple. Achashvairosh therefore hosted an extravagant party for 180 days for all the dignitaries of his empire during which he displayed the confiscated artifacts of the Temple. Unfortunately, Jews also participated in this party. This was a blatant offense to G-d, and He decided to bring a threat against the Jews that would initiate a nationwide repentance.
Queen Vashti

During the party, the king, quite inebriated, summoned Queen Vashti to publically appear in the nude. Vashti would have obeyed; however, she developed a polyp on her back that looked like a tail. Instead of stating the reason for her non compliance to the kingís wishes, Vashti sent a humiliating message to the king, thus causing him public embarrassment. The king sought the advice of his advisors and it was decided that Vashti be executed. A while later a massive search began for a suitable wife for the king.

Queen Esther

Esther, a Jewish girl, had been orphaned and raised by her cousin Mordechai. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the great assembly of Rabbis, Mordechai also held a respectable position in the kingís Parliament. Esther was totally not interested in becoming the queen and was taken against her will and presented before the king. The king was enamored by Estherís goodness and chose her as queen. Mordechai, seeing the absurdity of Estherís appointment understood that the Divine Will was at play and that Esther, in her role as queen, would be of benefit to the Jewish people. Mordechai therefore asked Esther not to reveal her Jewish identity. The suspense was great, the king tried many ploys to force her to reveal her identity, but she faithfully kept it concealed. Esther secretly remained devout to her religion throughout, (Kosher and Shabbat observance) and never initiated an intimate relationship with the king.

Haman the Wicked

The kingís most powerful officer was Haman. Haman, who was arrogant, demanded that everyone bow down to him. However Mordechai the Jew, refused to acknowledge Haman. This infuriated Haman. He decided to take revenge, not only on Mordechai, but on the entire Jewish nation. The date for this act was decided by the casting of lots. The dreadful day picked was the 13th day of Adar. Haman manipulated the king to give his approval of the genocide. The official documents were sent out to all of the 127 provinces that the 13th of Adar be set aside for the annihilation of the Jewish nation.

Estherís Plan

Mordechai sent a message to Esther informing her about Hamanís decree. He asked if she would intercede on behalf of her people, Even though the king had not called for her, Esther decided to approach him uninvited, an act which could mean immediate execution. Esther told Mordechai to have all the Jews (including herself) fast and pray for 3 days on her behalf. Then, Esther went before the king, who miraculously welcomed her and asked her what it was that she wanted. Estherís request was that the king and Haman attend a party that she had prepared. Only then would she tell the King of her request. At the party, Estherís only request was that the king and Haman attend yet another party the following day. Estherís intent was to provoke the kingís jealousy of Haman.

The Sleepless Night

That night the king couldnít sleep. He dreamed of a coup díetat with Haman as the leader. He asked for his book of deeds to be read to him. Perhaps he had overlooked rewarding a loyal citizen for some great deed. His reader opened to the section which related that Mordechai had previously saved the kingís life. He had reported on two foreigners, Bigsan and Seresh, who had plotted to poison the king. Mordechai had never been rewarded. Achashvairosh wondered what honor would be befitting someone who had saved the king.

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

At that moment Haman entered the courtyard. He intended to tell the king of a plan he had to hang Mordechai, The king asked Haman how best to honor a person deserving of the kingís honor. Haman said to himself, "Who would the king want to honor more than me?" Therefore he said, "Have the person clothed with the kingís robes and crown and have him ride on a horse once used by the king, led by a nobleman calling out,