Posts Tagged ‘Purim’
Devout reader Avi Abelow sent us this batch of photos from Purim at his shul, Zayit Raanan, in Efrat. Send us yours and maybe we’ll publish them too.
1. Purim’s Scroll of Esther represents fundamental tenets of Judaism:
*Faith in God, in contrast to idolatry and cynicism;
*Value/principle-driven realism (right vs. wrong and civil liberties), in contrast to opportunism and wishful-thinking; *Attachment to roots (religious, cultural, historical), in contrast to detachment;
*Optimism confidence and courage, in contrast to fatalism, despair and fear;
*Tenacious defiance of enormous adversity, in contrast to defeatism, submission and accommodation;
*Community-driven responsibility, in contrast to selfishness/recklessness.
2. According to Jewish sages (as indicated by Yoram Hazony’s, The Dawn.), the Torah was initially bestowed upon the Jewish people in Sinai, and then – symbolically – during the time of Queen Esther. Hazony explores the political sophistication of (the eventual vizier) Mordechai and Queen Esther, who snatched – against all odds – victory out of the jaws of a Haman-conspired holocaust. Mordechai’s political savory was preceded by that of Joseph, who, a thousand year earlier, ascended to be the vizier for Pharaoh, and Daniel, who had risen to a similar position in the court of Persia’s Darius a few decades earlier. Hazony contends that the Mordechai-Haman confrontation was also a clash of civilizations between faith in God and idolatry, as was the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh and Abraham and pagan worshippers.
Mordechai introduced civil disobedience, insisting that absolute right and wrong are superior to state decrees. In addition, Mordechai, Moses and Abraham, as well as Gideon, the Judge and Samuel, the Prophet, ushered in the concepts of limited government, civil liberties and the centrality of the constituents.
3. Purim’s Clash of Civilizations constitutes an early edition of the war between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, as were/are Adam/Eve and the snake, Abel and Cain, Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob and Esau (grandfather of Amalek), the Maccabees and the Assyrians, the Allies and the Nazis, the West and the Communist Bloc and Western democracies versus Islamic rogue and terrorist regimes.
4. Purim’s historical background according to Prof. Israel Eldad: *Xerxes the Great, King Ahasuerus, 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 the Phoenician-related 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 population and a Jewish-Hebrew connection dating back to King Solomon’s alliance with the Phoenician kingdom (e.g., 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 470 BC.
*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 decimate 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.
5. “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 (in the 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, in his ranch, documented his interest in Purim and its relevance to the enemies of the Jewish people.
This Shabbat we read Parshat Zachor. It is generally considered to be an obligatory commandment to hear this section of the Torah read each year.
From Devarim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19:
Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt.
That he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; and did not fear God.
And it shall come to pass, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess it, that you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget.
Parshat Zachor is always read on the Shabbat before Purim. Haman, one of the primary antagonists of the Megillah story, was a descendant of Amalek.
Students at the Makor Chaim yeshiva, also known as the “Steinsaltz” yeshiva in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem, turn into a “flash mob” every year before Purim to get everyone in the right mood for the holiday.
This year, they took over the upscale Mamilla Mall, opposite the Old City in Jerusalem, to stage their Purim dance.
A new display in Jerusalem is showcasing the oldest-known masks in the world, believed to have originated 9,000 years ago, long before Purim.
The 11 masks are made of stones and were discovered in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. Experts believe the masks were meant to look like skulls, with each displaying a unique personality via emotional expressions of shock or grinning.
“When you go back to objects that are this old, that are so much before the theology that becomes Judaism, Christianity and then Islam, to feel that there is a kind of a connection, that this is all part of a continuous story, is something that is pretty thrilling,” said Israel Museum director James Snyder, the Associated Press reported.
The custom of mask making and wearing dates back at least 25,000 years although no masks that old have been found, according to exhibit curator Debby Hershman, with the earliest masks most likely made of animal materials. Later, stone masks originated at the time when humans living in the Fertile Crescent adopted agriculture.
“It’s the most important revolution that ever happened,” Hershman said. The people who fashioned the masks, she said, “are actually the founders of civilization.”
A collaboration between an order of nuns and a British Jewish scribe to restore an ancient Hebrew scroll telling the story of Purim is drawing attention as a sign of progress in Catholic-Jewish relations.
Sofer (scribe) Mordechai Pinchas restored a megillah (scroll) of the Book of Esther and returned it to the Benedictine Tyburn Nuns at a London ceremony last week.
The parchment was written in Venice, Italy in the 18th century. It was donated to the order of nuns by Jordan and Lorraine Cherrick from St. Louis, Mo. The scroll is “a biblical artifact symbolizing ever-deepening Jewish-Catholic relations,” said Mother General Xavier McMonagle, according to the British Catholic Herald.
“It all shows something more than academic theological exercise. We get to know each other as real people. You can tell there is something deeper going on,” she said.
The Book of Esther tells the story of how Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai save the Jews from extermination by Haman, the royal advisor to King Ahasuerus of Persia. Jews around the world commemorate annually on the holiday of Purim, which this year begins after Shabbat on March 15.
According to McMonagle, the figure of Esther “has remained very powerful in Catholic Christian religion, devotion, and spirituality as a symbol, an image, and a model of powerful intercession with God to change the course of human events from bad to good.”
“The need for Esther’s example is ever present in our minds, whether we are Christians or Jews,” McMonagle said. “Esther is a memorial, a living point of confidence that God can change things for the better, and he can do it even by working miracles.”
Formerly known as the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre, the Tyburn Nuns received their nickname due to the location of their motherhouse, which stands next to the site of the Tyburn gallows. Their 105 canonized or beatified Catholic martyrs were executed during the Reformation era.