Yet again the month of Adar is upon which means that the holiday of Purim is not far behind. I will be reneging on my duty as your rabbi if I will not recite for you this year’s story of Purim , the greatest intrigue saga that has ever told by humans, especially the Jewish kind! It took place in the 4th century BCE, at least that’s what the historians say, go trust them…
Achashverosh, King of Persia ruled over a huge empire which included India and parts of Africa. Since he enjoyed the attention he was getting he maintained a very rigorous royal obligation of partying 24/7. Of course members of the media would park on his front royal lawn documenting and reporting all the details of who was who showing up for the on going celebrations.
All state matters were left for the secretary of state, the big Honcho, the big egomaniac fellow by the name of Haman. Haman had aspirations! He had dreams, ambition, hopes, desires, a purpose in life! He was a self made, proud man. The problem was he was a ruthless evil man. His agenda was very clear. Unseat Achasverosh the King and become the King of Persia.
In order to achieve his goal he needed to find a way to gain control of the military, both the army and the navy. (Forget the Air Force, that would not happen for another 2500 years.) What he really needed was a scapegoat in order to unite the Persians through common hatred, thus becoming their leader. (Sound familiar?)
One day as he was walking in the streets of Shushan, the capital of Persia, to get something to eat at a local pub, he enjoyed watching everyone bow down to him. Yes, he was quite pleased with the law he enacted, “On Your Knees” under the City of Shushan statues and regulations.
Then it happened! Much to his dismay, a man by the name of Mordecai, A Jew of course, refused to bow down to him! While being upset, a thought came to his evil mind, “This is exactly what I was looking for” he said to himself. “This is the window of opportunity I was praying for to the gods of Persia , may they live a long life and be blessed! I will unite my fellow countryman in the hatred of the Jews, kill them all, become the undisputed leader of the people and grab the kingdom from this Idiot Achashverosh!”
Meantime King Achashverosh had banished his wife, Queen Vashti, out of Persia!! Don’t ask. It was one of those stupid acts of his while being intoxicated. Something about asking her to dance in front of his drunken guests. She refused, he was insulted….. whatever. Bottom line: He needed a new queen.
So there was a royal competition between all the eligible women of the kingdom who competed for the title. The king was looking first and foremost for an intelligent, bright well educated woman (Yea, Sure…)
As the story goes, Esther the Jewess, won the competition fair and square and became the queen of Persia. The irony was that she was indeed smart and pretty(according to the Persian TV channel one and two, but go believe the media… )
At that point Haman had already convinced the king to let him organize a full pogrom against the Jews and to command the army for this event. The plan was to first hang Mordecai the Jew in downtown Shushan, right near the central horse station. This was to get Mordecai back after Haman had to take him around on the King’s horse proclaiming “This is the man the king wishes to honor.!” It seems that Mordecai had uncovered a plot to kill the king and this was his reward. But of course Mordecai did not really plan to be hanged. He needed to put a stop to this “Mishegaas” being perpetrated by Haman .
In a secret conference with Esther the queen, who also happened to be his niece, he demanded that due to this urgent matter, she swing into swift action. The queen was actually afraid to initiate contact with her husband since an unsolicited initiative could cause her own life. But considering the urgency of the matter, after all, the life of many Jews was on the line. plus the dirty politics of taking charge of the Army illegally by that evil man, Haman had to be stopped.
So she agreed to take the challenge. After not eating for three days and going into prayers and seclusion, she was now nice and trim. She could wear that dress which won her the queen competition. The rest is history. She successfully invited the king and Haman to a party where she revealed to her husband that she was in fact, Jewish and that Haman wanted to kill all the Jews including her.
Well, that was all the king needed to hear. He got so upset that he could not bring himself to party and drink for a week. He immediately order the execution of Haman, ordered his army to not to hurt the Jews and promoted Mordecai to be his secretary of state, chief negotiator with Iran on nuclear matters. And that is basically how the Jews were saved by Esther the Queen and Mordecai the secretary of state.
This is my story and I am sticking by it.
The Hidden Stuff: So why even tell this story which we do year after year after year? Of course like everything in Judaism there are many reasons – oy that again! But it seems that in addition to bringing Joy into our lives which comes with the holiday and actually the Hebrew month of Adar, Purim also has to do with revealing that which has been hidden. The hidden plot to kill the king is revealed by Mordecai, Queen Ester’s hidden identity as a Jewess is revealed, Haman’s hidden agenda is revealed with his plan to kill the Jews.
Purim asks us to look at that which is hidden deep within our own selves. The rabbis say that dressing up in costumes even allows us to experience our alter egos. Once the hidden is revealed we can identify our hidden aspirations and examine our lower natures. We can then take action if needed and indeed emerge triumphant!
So just in case you are wondering which costume I will be wearing this year for Purim….I have to look into my alter ego…