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Purim Guide for the Perplexed 2013

A Purim lesson: Be wary of enemies, posing as partners of peace, concealing a strategic goal of extermination.
The courtroom of the International Military Tribunal, Nürnberg, 1946-1947.

The courtroom of the International Military Tribunal, Nürnberg, 1946-1947.
Photo Credit: USHMM.

1.  “Purimfest 1946” were the last words of Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek magazine, October 28, 1946, page 46).  On October 16, 1946 (Jewish year 5707), ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg.  An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. Julius Streicher’s library documented much interest in Purim and its relevance to enemies of the Jewish people.

According to the Scroll of Esther, King Ahasuerus allowed the Jews to defend themselves and hang Haman and his ten sons.  The Talmud (Megillah 16a) claims that Haman had an 11th child, a daughter, who committed suicide following her father’s demise.

In the aftermath of the hanging of Haman and his sons, Queen Esther asked King Ahasuerus: “If it shall please His Majesty, allow the Jews who are in [the capital city] Shushan to act also tomorrow as they did today (in literary Hebrew,  “tomorrow” refers sometimes to a distant future), and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows (Esther 9:13).”  Why would she request the hanging of Haman’s already hung sons?  Esther’s request was interpreted as a reference to a future event which would require a similar hanging. The original Hebrew text of the Scroll of Esther – which documents the hanging of Haman’s sons – features one very large letter, ו (which equals 6 – the 6th millennium), and three very small letters, ת, ש, ז (which equal 707), referring to the year 5707 during the 6th millennium – 1946/7 in the general calendar.

2.  Purim’s historical background according to Prof. Israel Eldad:

*Xerxes the Great – King Ahasuerus, known for his grand and long banquets – succeeded Darius the Great.  He ruled the Persian Empire (from India to Ethiopia) during 465-486BC, 150 years before the rise of Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian Empire.

*Greece was Persia’s key opponent in its expansion towards the Mediterranean and Europe, hence the alliance between Persia and Carthage, a rival of Greece.

*Greece supported Egypt’s revolt against Persian rule, which was subdued by Persia with the help of the Jewish warriors of Yeb (in Egypt) and Carthage, which had a significant Jewish-Hebrew connection (the names of Carthage’s heroes, Hannibal and Barca, derived from the Hebrew names, Hananyah and Barak).

*Xerxes was defeated by Greece at the battle of Salamis (480 BC), but challenged Greece again in 470BC.

*According to a Greek translation of the Scroll of Esther, Haman (the Agagi) was Macedonian by orientation or by birth.  Agagi could refer to Agag, the Amalekite King (who intended to annihilate the Jews) or to the Greek Aegean Islands. Haman aspired to annihilate the Jews of Persia and opposed improved relations between Xerxes and the Jews of Yeb.  He led the pro-Greek and anti-Carthage faction in Persia, while Mordechai was a chief advocate for the pro-Carthage orientation.

3.  Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th days of the Jewish month of Adar.  Adar (אדר) is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir ( - (אדיר glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent.  It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism).  Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud) highlights Adar as a month of happiness, singing and dancing. The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication. Hence, Adar is the only Jewish month, which doubles itself during the 7 leap years, in each 19 year cycle. Purim is celebrated on the 14th (in non-walled towns) and (in Jerusalem) on the 15th day of Adar, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People from the jaws of a holocaust in Persia.  It also commemorates the 161 BC victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander.  Moses ¬ who delivered the Jewish People from a holocaust in Egypt and whose burial site is unknown – was born, and died (1273 BC), on the 7th day of Adar, which is Israel’s Memorial Day for soldiers, whose burial site is unknown. The events of Purim occurred following the destruction of the 1st Temple by Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) and the exile from Zion, during the leadership of Ezra who returned to Jerusalem, and the inauguration of the Second Temple (3rd of Adar, 515 BCE) by Ezra and Nehemiah.  Nebuchadnezzar died in Adar 561 BC (Jeremiah 52:31).  Albert Einstein published the Theory of General Relativity in Adar 1916.

4. Purim’s Hebrew root is fate/destiny (פור), as well as “lottery” (commemorating Haman’s lottery which determined the designated day for the planned annihilation of the Jewish People), “to frustrate,” “to annul” (להפר), “to crumble” and “to shutter” (לפורר), reflecting the demise of Haman.

5.  Purim commemorates a Clash of Civilizations between Mordechai the Jew and Haman the Iranian-Amalekite. It constitutes an early edition of the war between right VS wrong, liberty VS tyranny, justice VS evil, truth VS lies, as were/are Adam/Eve VS the snake, Abel VS Cain, Abraham VS Sodom  and Gomorrah, Jacob VS Esau (grandfather of Amalek), Maccabees VS Assyrians, Allies VS Nazis, Western democracies VS Communist Bloc and Western democracies VS Islamic rogue and terrorist regimes.

About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.


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