Purim

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Esther 9:1-4
Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;) The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people. And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.
From JewFaq.org:

Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people’s, and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them.” Esther 3:8. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. The 13th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews, and the day that the Jews battled their enemies for their lives. On the day afterwards, the 14th, they celebrated their survival. In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, because the book of Esther says that in Shushan (a walled city), deliverance from the massacre was not complete until the next day. The 15th is referred to as Shushan Purim.

Hitler and Purim

Adolph Hitler knew about this holiday and its significance in Jewish history. In 1941, Hitler banned the Jewish community in Poland from the observance of Purim. They were forbidden to read the Scroll of Esther and the synagogues were closed on that day (Goodman 1980: 374).

On January 30, 1944, Hitler addressed the German people on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of the Nazi party coming to power. In this anti-Semitic diatribe, he blamed all the ills of Europe and Germany on “international Jewry” (his words). He went on to predict that if the Russians defeated Germany then “Jewry could then celebrate the destruction of Europe by a second triumphant Purim festival.” (New York Times, Jan. 31, 1944, p. 5) Fortunately, just over a year later, Hitler committed suicide and the Nazi regime came to an end.

The story is told of Hitler giving one of his fiery speeches in the large hall in Munich early in his rise to power. In this oration he called for the destruction of the Jewish people. In the front row sat a man, who on occasion, would make faces and laugh at the Fuhrer. After the meeting Hitler inquired as to who this man was and why he made faces and laughed at him. The man explained that he was Jewish and said to Hitler, “You should be aware that you are not the first anti-Semite who sought to destroy us. You may recall that the great Pharaoh of Egypt sought to enslave the Jews. To commemorate his defeat and our redemption, we eat tasty Mazot and observe the festival of Passover. Haman was another enemy of ours who brought about his own downfall. The delicious Hamantashen we eat and the jolly festival of Purim recall our deliverance from him. While listening to your venomous diatribe, I wondered what kind of delicacy would the Jews invent and what kind of holiday would be established to celebrate your downfall” (Goodman 1980:384,385).

In an ironic twist, Hitler attempted to carry out his diabolical plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Today, however, the Jewish people do not celebrate the downfall of Hitler, but rather, they commemorate the tragic event of the Holocaust by remembering the six million Jews who were slaughtered in the concentration camps of Europe. This memorial day is called Yom HaShoah and is observed on the 27th of Nisan. Some Jewish people even fast on this day. -Gordon Franz

List of Dates

Purim will occur on the following days of the secular calendar:

  • Jewish Year 5773: sunset February 23, 2013 - nightfall February 24, 2013
  • Jewish Year 5774: sunset March 15, 2014 - nightfall March 16, 2014
  • Jewish Year 5775: sunset March 4, 2015 - nightfall March 5, 2015
  • Jewish Year 5776: sunset March 23, 2016 - nightfall March 24, 2016
  • Jewish Year 5777: sunset March 11, 2017 - nightfall March 12, 2017