Chag Purim Semeach! This Sunday, February 28, is the Jewish festival of Purim. I’m not Jewish, but since Christianity has its roots in Judaism, I think that it is important that we have a basic knowledge of Judaism. Then we can more fully understand the culture, and where Jesus was coming from when He said the things that He said.
Purim is the traditional celebration of the salvation of the Jews from the hands of the Medes and Persians. You can read about this story in the Old Testament book of Esther.
Recognize Purim! At dinner time, read the story of Esther. For desert, eat Haman’s ears. Don’t let the name scare you! They are actually yummy cookies.
· 4 eggs
· 1 cup oil
· 1 ½ cups sugar
· 2 tsp vanilla
· 1 tbsp baking powder
· ½ tsp salt
· 4 cups flour
· Pinch of lemon rind
· Beat eggs, add remaining ingredients, beating well after each ingredient. (I suggest that you mix the flour by hand to avoid excessive stickiness)
· Roll out dough and cut out circles
· Put a tsp of jelly in center
· Fold over edges in three section
· Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.
· Makes about 5 doz. cookies
The story runs thus:
Xerxes, king of the Medes and the Persians was having a drunken party one evening, as kings were accustomed to do on occasion in ancient times. He ordered his wife to flaunt her beauty in front of his buddies, and she, having some sense of propriety, refused. The king wrote a declaration against her and sealed it with his signet ring. The declaration said that the king’s wife was banished from his presence forever. The next morning, as the king was recovering from a terrific hangover, he remembered what he had done. He felt terrible; however, in the law of the Medes and the Persians, once the king sealed something with his signet ring, it stood forever. Whoever wrote these laws were obviously not quite as intelligent, as, say, Thomas Jefferson and the guy who wrote the Magna Charta. So, God save the Queen, and out she went.
Xerxes was seriously bumming. His officials suggested that he find a new wife. So, Xerxes held a beauty pageant to find a new wife. Ah! Xerxes- haven’t you heard? Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting!
Apparently, Xerxes had never read the sayings of King Lemuel, and went ahead with his pageant. He was really serious about finding the biggest cutie on the planet- ok, the biggest cutie in Media and Persia- for it took an entire year of beauty treatments for each girl before she could be introduced to the king! All the girls were gorgeous, but Xerxes turned down one girl after another, seriously damaging their self-esteem. Finally, he saw the woman he wanted- a girl named Hadassah! Hadassah had another name, too- Esther. Xerxes found it much easier to say Esther (perhaps he had a terrible lisp), so that was what everyone began to call her.
Esther missed her cousin (and legal guardian) terribly, so she got him a job at the palace. This man, Mordechai, overheard a couple of losers plotting to kill the king. Mordechai snitched on them, and they were killed. Then the king promptly forgot all about Mordechai. Around this time, the king appointed a right-hand man. The guy that he picked was Haman and was a real snake. It was another one of Xerxes’ bad decisions, and at this point I’m sure a lot of people thought that perhaps it would have been better if Mordechai had never overheard the assassination plot. The King, of course, did not think Haman was a snake at all. If fact, he worshipped the ground Haman walked on, and wanted everyone else to do so, too. Literally. Mordechai, a devout Jew, did not take kindly to this and thereby refused to pay homage to Haman.
Well, this really made Haman mad. So, he convinced the King to write a decree to kill on the Jews. The King agreed. He wrote that on a particular day, the Medes and Persians could go slaughter any Jew they found and take all the plunder they liked. It would be like 99₵ day at Savers! Xerxes sealed it with his signet ring. Haman clicked his heals together and went out to build a gallows on which to hang Mordechai.
Mordechai heard about the proclamation, went home, and dressed himself in a burlap bag. Then he went to the palace, sat in the courtyard, and began to bawl. Esther looked out her window and sent a servant to find out what the problem was. Mordechai filled the servant in on the proclamation, and the servant filled Esther in. Mordechai also begged Esther to go to the King and ask for a reprieve.
Another weird law of the Medes and the Persians was that if you entered the King’s presence without being invited, you were going to be killed- that is, unless the king stuck his golden scepter in your face and let you touch the gold ball on the end. Esther knew about Xerxes mood swings, and she knew what happened to the King’s ex when she went against the King. She was petrified at the thought of going to him. Nevertheless, she fasted and prayed for three days, dressed up in her best clothes, and marched right in to the throne room. The King was bored that day, and he was delighted to see Esther. He stuck the gold scepter in her face, and she touched the gold ball. He made a comment about how cute she was when she touched gold scepter balls, and she smiled halfheartedly. He, feeling generous, told her that she could have anything she wanted, up to half of his kingdom. Now, tempting as that was, Esther meekly invited he and Haman to a dinner party. The King was pleased and Haman gloated. His good mood was ruined when he went outside and saw Mordechai sitting by the palace gate ignoring him.
That night the King and Haman went to Esther’s party. The King, showing a bit more intelligence than he had in the past, figured out that there was something on Esther’s mind, and he asked her what it was that she REALLY wanted. She got nervous and told him that she would tell him the next day at another dinner party.
That night, the king had a hard time sleeping. So he asked for a bedtime story. Of course, since he was a selfish individual, he wanted the story to be about himself. So, his scribe went to get the royal records and began to read them. When he came to the part about the assassination plot, the king, still suffering from insomnia, asked the scribe what had been done to reward Mordechai. The scribe riffled through his scrolls and finally told the King that nothing had ever been done for Mordechai. Just then, Haman burst into the bedroom, wearing his nightgown and bunny slippers. The King did not ask Haman why in the world was he bursting into the palace dressed like that at that time of night. Had he done so, Haman would have answered that he was getting real sick of Mordechai and could he please kill him RIGHT THEN. However, the King did not ask that- instead, he asked Haman what he thought would be the best way to honor someone the King thought highly of. Well, Haman could only think of one person whom the King thought highly of, and that was himself. So, he told the king to dress up this person in the King’s clothes, set him on a steed, and have someone lead him around. Xerxes congratulated Haman on his brilliance and told him to go do all those things for Mordechai. Haman had no choice but to acquiesce. After he finished honoring Mordechai, Haman headed home among snickers from his friends and got washed up to go to Esther’s party.
At her party, Esther told the King about a great enemy of her people who was bent set on destroying she and her family. Xerxes was highly offended that anyone would want to kill his beautiful queen, and demanded to know who the man was. Esther took a deep breath and pointed at Haman. The King stormed out in a rage. Haman grabbed the queen and begged her for his life. She was petrified by his violent shaking and weeping. Xerxes, who had finally composed himself a bit, came back in during this scene. He became angry all over again and began to shout at Haman. Just then, a servant form Haman’s house told him that the gallows for Mordechai was ready. The King became more angry and told the servant to hang Haman on the gallows. Then, we went and wrote a new proclamation, stating that the Jews could defend themselves on the day that they were supposed to be slaughtered, and he sealed it with his ring. That day, not one Jew died. Mordechai took Haman’s place and the Jews began a tradition that is continued to this day- the festival of Purim.