The True Purim and the Untold Truth
Today millions of Jews around the world celebrate Purim as a deliverance from a certain Holocaust, and rightly so. The Jews in Persia were on the brink of extermination and had Mordecai and Queen Esther done nothing or not enough, all Jews would have perished in the Holocaust.
However, is this Purim all about childish plays and making fancy “hamantaschen” cookies named after Haman, one of the world’s most notorious anti-Semite? Because, this is how Purim is celebrated today. But, is there anything more to it than that? Is there anything that we have not seen, which we were supposed to see?
Purim narrated anew
Let us see the story of Purim (lots) through the entire historical context of the Jews in exile. Everything started with the plot of Haman to exterminate the Jewish people. We read from the Book of Esther:
In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of Sovereign Ahashverosh, someone cast Pur – that is, the lot – before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. (Est 3:7)
“Pur” is an Old-Persian word meaning lot, hence “Purim” for lots. The words ”from month to month, until it fell on the twelfth month,” must not be understood to say, that lots were cast day by day and month by month until the twelfth; but that in the first month lots were one after the other, for all the days and months of the year, until a favorable day might be obtained to exterminate the Jews in Persia.
And once Haman obtained the favorable day for his plan to destroy the Jews, the king’s scribes were called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and a decree was written according to all that Haman commanded – to the governors who were over each province, and to every people in their language to kill, and to destroy all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions (Est 3:12-13).
Here the question is forced upon us, why the rush to send the decree for the holocaust? The scribes were summoned to prepare it on the thirteenth day of the first month. Even though many copies had to be made in different languages, it would be required so very long time to issue one hundred and twenty-seven letters. We expect that as soon as the scribes had finished their work, the letters were sent out into all corners of the kingdom, and would arrive in their destinations no later than a month.
This would mean that the conspirators would have had at least ten months to execute their plan to kill the Jews. What then was the motive for such a rush? We should not expect that Haman the anti-Semite had intended to give the Jews time to escape. On the contrary, we should expect him to implement his plan as soon as possible, because he wanted them dead and their possessions plundered.
However, what we see is that Haman and his co-conspirators were casting lots (purim) through sorcery most likely to obtain the most favorable day for the execution of their plan. Haman was a pagan and as such he was deeply involved in sorcery. While he was casting lots (purim), he thought in his mind that he was in control of the events through sorcery. But as in the story of Balak and Bil’am the prophet in the Book of Numbers, as we go through the Book of Esther will see that Elohim turned the evil intent to curse Israel into a blessing.
It was only because there was so long time window between the decree and the day appointed for its execution, provided by Elohim, that it was possible for Mordecai and Hadassah (Esther) the Queen of Persia to avert the destruction of their people, as we will see further in the Purim story.
When Mordecai learned about Haman’s conspiracy to exterminate his people, he called Esther’s attention to the fact that her own life was in danger, too. This is evident from the clause: if you keep entirely silent at this time, and will not intercede with the king for your people, help will come from some other place, but you will die (Est 4:13-14).
Consequently, Haman and his co-conspirators’ plan was revealed to the king and they were destroyed. Mordecai was given Haman’s position: that of the right hand of the king.
The king’s decree for the destruction of the Jews in his kingdom was issued on the thirteenth day of the first month. The king’s scribes were called again to copy another decree, that of allowing the Jews to defend themselves, in the third month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And it was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded the governors from India to Kush, (Est 8:9) to grant the Jews in every city to be assembled and stand for their lives – to defend themselves and kill all who come up against them, and to plunder their possessions (Est 8:11).
And in the twelfth month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, on the day that the enemies of the Jews had waited to overpower them, it turned around, so that the Jews overpowered those who hated them. The Jews assembled in their cities, throughout all the provinces to lay hands on those who sought their evil. And no one stood against them, because fear of them fell upon all people (Est 9:1-2). In their defense the Jews killed seventy-five thousands of their enemies. But they did not lay a hand on the plunder, although they were permitted to do so.
After the victory of the Jews, Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews to establish among them, to perform the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as days of feasting, yearly, therefore, the Jews called these days Purim, after the name Pur, lot, (Est 9:20-21).
Thus, the Jews established and imposed Purim upon themselves and upon their seed and all who should join them, that without fail they should perform these two days every year, (Est 9:27-28).
And all the acts of Mordecai, with which the king made him great, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia. For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahashverosh, and great among the Jews and pleasing to his many brothers, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all (Est 10:2-3).
What is the lesson of the Purim story?
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the people of Elohim were exiled in Babylon for seventy years for not giving the land the due rest in the sabbatical and jubilee years. For more information on the last events of the Kingdom of Judah, refer to Chapter The Chronology from King Yoshiyahu to King Tzidqiyahu and the Fall of Yerushalayim of the present author’s book Reckoning of Time.
The people of Elohim were not oppressed in their exile in Babylon. Many of them followed the advice of the prophet Jeremiah and built houses and businesses (Jer_29:3-7). Some of them even arose to positions of distinction in the empire like Daniel the prophet who became a ruler over the provinces in Babylon and like Nehemiah who was a cupbearer to the king (Dan_2:48, Neh_1:1-11).
When the time came, the seventy years of exile ended in year 3427 (see Jubilees Table). Dareyavesh, the King of the Medes, conquered Babylon, but his reign lasted only one year, because he was slain in battle. At his death, his son-in-law Koresh (Cyrus) succeeded him and was crowned in the midst of the battle.
This is the same King Koresh of Persia, who in his first year of reign, which was the seventieth of the exile of the Jews in Babylon (see Antiq 11:1:1), issued his famous declaration (1Es_6:24-28, Ezr_1:1-4), which allowed those Jews who desired to return to Zion to do so. He even granted the rebuilding of the House of YHVH in Jerusalem (2Ch_36:19-23, Ezr_6:3-5). We read,
Thus, said Koresh king of Persia, Yehovah Elohim of the heavens has given me all the reigns of the earth. And He has commanded me to build Him a house in Yerushalayim which is in Yehudah. Who is among you of all His people? His Elohim be with him! And let him go up to Yerushalayim, which is in Yehudah, and build the House of Yehovah Elohim of Israel – He is Elohim – which is in Yerushalayim. (Ezr 1:2-3)
At that time 42,360 and 7,337 servants (Ezr_2:64) chose to leave Babylon with Zerubavel, the grandson of King Yehoyakin, thus having put the Babylonian exile to an end. That was the first return of the exile in the Land.
King Koresh died and Ahashverosh reigned in his stead. The work of the House of Elohim was stopped for the three years in which Koresh reigned, during the fourteen years of Ahashverosh, and the first year of King Dareyavesh his son (Dan_9:1).
Thus, the rebuilding of the Temple had been ceased for total of eighteen years until the second year of King Dareyavesh (Ezr_4:24, 1Es_5:72-73, and 1Es_6:1-2). This Dareyavesh king of Persia, was the son of Ahashverosh and Esther, as it is written in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah (13:4).
Therefore, we see, that not all Jews returned to the Land with the end of the seventy years of exile; only a small number of some fifty thousand left Babylon. Most the Jews decided to stay in the land of exile where they had established good businesses and social status in Babylon, because the exile was not oppressive to them.
For more information on the chronology of the returns from Babylon, refer to Chapter The End of the Babylonian Exile and the First Return.
There would be three more returns of the Jews to the Land, but we should ask ourselves the question, “What were Mordecai and Esther doing in Persia sixteen years after the first Jews left?” Sixteenth years! “What were the Jews doing in Persia that they did not leave together with their brethren when Koresh granted them their freedom?”
We should notice that whenever Israel was pushed to the point to make crucial decisions, there had always been some who rebelled against Elohim of Israel.
For instance, the Exodus from Egypt. Not all Israelites left the Egyptian exile. Some of them chose to stay in Egypt and did not leave. Per the Sages and how they translate a certain passage in the Hebrew text, only twenty percent made the Exodus; the rest chose to stay in Egypt.
For more explanation on why not all Israelites left Egypt, refer to the article Will All Israel Return?
The Arabian exile is another example, when Elohim did not allow Israel to enter the Land after the evil report of the ten spies. Israel was diverted back to the wilderness and spent thirty-eight years in Arabia until every one from twenty years and older died in the desert. Again, many chose to leave the camp and settled in various places in Arabia (read the article “Israel’s Contention in Arabia“), but it suffices to say for the time being that when the new generation of Israel stood in the plain of Moav ready to take the Promised Land, they were less in numbers than when Israel left Egypt, but for more explanation, refer to Chapter The Temple of the book Reckoning of Time.
With this we come to the time of the Babylonian exile and consequently the life of the Jews in Persia. What we see, however, is that they chose to stay in Persia where they had their homes, businesses, and possessions. The land of Babylon had become their land; they felt comfortable there. They chose not to leave their comfortable zone and return in the Land promised to Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov. They chose not to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the House of YHVH. They left their brethren who returned to Jerusalem vulnerable to their enemies’ attacks, while they enjoyed the complacent life in Persia.
Even when the Holocaust came imminent upon them and they had enough time to leave and save themselves, they chose to save their possessions from plundering instead. If Elohim of their fathers was not for them in Persia, they would have all perished with no one to save them and there would be no Purim to celebrate. And what is even worse, they did not give the due praise and thanksgiving to the One who actually saved them. They chose to praise Mordecai and Queen Esther instead. They established their own feasting, Purim, and did not dedicated it to whom they should have: that is YHVH. We read,
And he sent letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace and truth, to confirm these days of Purim in their appointed times, according as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had enjoined them, and as they had ordained for themselves and for their seed, the matters of the fasting and their cry. (Est 9:30-31)
And all the acts of his power and his might, and the exact account of the greatness of Mordecai, with which the sovereign made him great, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was second to King Ahashverosh, and great among the Jews and pleasing to his many brothers, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed. (Est 10:2-3)
This is in contrast with what Yoseph (Joseph), who was the second to the Pharaoh in Egypt, said to his brothers that Elohim of Israel was with him all those years and it was Him who turned evil to good. Mordecai? Mordecai did not give glory to YHVH.
It was Mosheh (Moses) who exalted and glorified YHVH when He saved Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army.
Then sang Mosheh and the children of Israel this song unto Yehovah, and spoke, saying: I will sing unto Yehovah, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. Yehovah is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation; this is my God, and I will glorify Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Yehovah is a man of war, Yehovah is His name. (Exo 15:1-3)
Mordecai did nothing to give glory to YHVH.
It was Miriam, the sister of Mosheh, who led the women in dancing.
And Miryam the prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the timbrel in her hand. And all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miryam answered them, “Sing to Yehovah, for He is highly exalted! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (Exo 15:20-21)
Esther did nothing to exalt YHVH.
Instead, we read in the Book of Esther about Mordecai’s power and might, and the greatness of Mordecai, not YHVH’s.
We also read in Est 4:13-14,
Do not think within yourself to escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep entirely silent at this time, relief and salvation shall arise for the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house perish. And who knows whether you have come to the reign for such a time as this? (Est 4:13-14)
We should notice here that Mordecai neither speaks of Elohim, nor alludes to His providence, but he grounded his hope of the preservation of his people upon the willingness and acts of Queen Esther, not upon Elohim’s power.
Had Mordecai meant Elohim in mind to save them, he would not have referred to Him as “from another place” and he would not have said that she would die.
Why has the author of the Book of Esther chosen to write these exact words? What has he meant to convey to us and what is the lesson of the whole story? And last but not least: Who is the author of the Book of Esther?
Who learns from the true Purim story?
Today, there are millions of Jews living in the longest exile in the history of Israel: the Roman exile. Like the ancestors in Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, they have chosen not to come into the Promised Land, although it has been open for immigration as early as the beginning of the twentieth century.
But the Jews in Europe chose not to leave the exile and if Elohim of the fathers was not for them in Europe, they would have all perished in the Holocaust with no one to save them.
And even after the birth of the State of Israel, when the return of the children of Israel has become a number one issue, the Jewry in exile chose not to leave: just like the fathers in Egypt, Arabia, and Persia.
As of 2015, the Jewish population worldwide was estimated at 14.31 million people. The Jewish population, including people identifying as partly Jewish is 17.3 million globally. Further if non-Jewish members of Jewish households are included, then it totals 20.2 million. But the total number of people who hold or are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return — defined as anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent — is estimated at around 23 million, of which 6.6 million are currently living in Israel.
Most of the Jews outside of the State of Israel live in Europe and the U.S. Although, the door for return is widely open, only small percentage of them choose to make “aliya” that is ascending in Israel. The majority, however, prefer the convenient life in the modern-day “Babylon.” Sadly to say, history repeats itself and those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.
In pre-war Europe, the Jewry had enough signs to see the coming danger of Nazism, but few saw it and left and survived. Today we see the same situation: ramping anti-Semitism, terrorism in places, violence all over the world, but how many see it? How many of the European and world Jewry will leave and return to the Promised Land?
This rapid change in the European status quo may be a catalyst of accelerating of the Jewish migration to the Land. However, despite the increased aliya, there are still many Jews who prefer the western life over the life in the Land of Israel.
The current levels of aliya constitute about 0.3 percent of Israel’s population, not enough to change the existing balances in the Middle East. It seems that by massive Muslim migration in Europe Elohim is turning the heat on the Jewry to return to the Land. But how many will see the sign of the coming new danger for the Jewry in Europe?
Rabbi Winston explained that Elohim is in the process of identifying who, among the Jewish people, will survive the coming changes.
“If a person is in Israel and connected to the idea of geula [the final redemption of the Jewish people], that person has the best chance of surviving.”
“We see from the past that religious observance was not a guaranteed ticket to freedom and protection. Being in the right place at the right time when an exile comes to an end has worked for the religious and secular alike. Many want to believe that there is no imperative to be in Israel today, or at least to dream of living there. But if one follows the trend over the last couple of hundred years, he or she will see that Divine Providence has quietly at times, and not so quietly at other times, been moving the Jewish people back in that direction.”
Per Rabbi Winston, anti-Semitism is Elohim’s way of forcing a Jew to choose to be on one side or the other.
The Purim story is still alive. The lots have been cast, but who is able to see them?
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.