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Jewish Holidays' Guide for the Perplexed by Yoram Ettinger

1. Purim’s Scroll of Esther represents fundamental tenets of Judaism:

*Faith in God, in contrast to idolatry and cynicism;

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*Faith in mankind’s capabilities, as God reduces direct involvement (from Genesis and Exodus to Esther Scroll – which does not mention God’s name – Ezra and Nehemiah);

*Value/principle-driven realism, in contrast to opportunism and wishful-thinking;

*Attachment to roots (religious, cultural, historical), in contrast to detachment and assimilation;

*Liberty – the core of personal/national existence (just like Sukkot/Tabernacles, Chanukah and Passover);

*Community/national-driven responsibility, in contrast to selfishness (Queen Esther assumed responsibility, while risking her life and convenience);

*The ingathering of Jews to the Land of Israel (opposed by Haman and advanced by Mordechai);

*Optimism, confidence and courage, in contrast to pessimism, despair and fear; *Tenacious defiance of enormous adversity, in contrast to defeatism, submission and accommodation. Problems = opportunities in disguise.

2. Purim’s Clash of Civilizations exemplifies an early edition of the war between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, as were/are Adam/Eve VS. the Snake, Abel VS. Cain, Abraham VS. Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob VS. Esau (grandfather of Amalek), the Maccabees VS. the Assyrians, the Allies VS. the Nazis, the West VS. the Communist Bloc and Western democracies VS. Islamic rogue and terrorist regimes.

3. “Purimfest 1946” yelled Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek, 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.

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

4. 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). In Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud) Adar is featured 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 day 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 sites are unknown.

5. Purim’s (פורים) 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.

6. Mordechai, the hero of Purim and one of Ezra’s deputies, was a role model of principle-driven optimism in defiance of colossal odds, in the face of a super power and in defiance of the Jewish establishment. He fought Jewish assimilation and urged Jews to sustain their roots and return to their Homeland. Mordechai was a politically-incorrect, out-of-the-box thinking leader and a retired military commander, who preferred a disproportionate pre-emptive offensive to retaliation, appeasement and defense. The first three Hebrew letters of Mordechai (מרדכי) spell the Hebrew word “rebellion” (מרד). Mordechai did not bow to Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob who did not bow to Esau. The name Mordechai is also a derivative of Mordouch, the chief Babylonian god.

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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.