Purim 101

As I continue diving into the Hebraic roots of my Christian faith, I find myself on the doorstep of a Jewish Holiday called, “Purim”. Essentially, it is the celebration of the story of Esther and in my opinion is just as relevant to the Christian community as it is the Jews.  In fact, the inauguration of the holiday comes straight from 9th chapter of Esther:

20 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, 21 to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar 22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

Traditional Celebration

Jews celebrate Purim a couple of different ways. First, Jewish children will dress up in costumes, typically as one of their favorite characters from the Bible. While this holds no bearing in our scriptures, it is viewed as part of the celebrating and letting our defenses down. The other celebrations come straight from Mordecai’s directives (see above):

  • Give to the Poor – In the Hebrew, this is called “Matanot La’evyonim” and calls us to remember the less fortunate in our time of celebration. It is tradition that you give to at least two impoverished food equal to the amount you eat during the celebration. The concept of giving to the poor is at the very core of our Christian values as Christ told us that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him.
  • Give to Friends – The celebration also includes sharing the joy with fellow friends as well, by making them a friend. Tradition holds that you should share at least 2 items of food. I am not as interested as following tradition as I am in sharing with others. Christ called us to be as one and remember each other in thoughts and prayer.
  • Feast – Mordecai asked his fellow Jews to have an annual feast in remembrance, just like Esther had a feast with the King. Surprisingly, you might find an excess of alcohol in a Jewish feast as a way of relaxing and forgetting Haman’s hatred. While alcohol is perfectly acceptable (we can argue that later), we are reminded as Christians not be drunk with wine. And again, the concept of corporately celebrating is a part of our Christian culture.
  • Read Esther – Outside of the biblical canon, the Scroll of Esther is referred to as the Megillah.  Every Purim, the scroll is read in synagogues during corporate worship. Reading scripture shouldn’t be a problem for any Christian.

The Take Away

I have always found Esther’s story to be fascinating because it doesn’t include God’s name through the entirety of the narrative. Not once. Yet, God’s intervention is incredibly visible in Mordecai’s happening upon the plot, Esther’s favor in the King’s eyes, and the bravery she portrayed when rushing upon the throne. Again, I feel as though we have lost so much by denying our Hebrew roots as Christians. Purim is certainly a celebration for both, holding timeless truths of God’s interventions in our own lives.

For my Christian readership, would you be willing to celebrate Purim even thought its a Jewish holiday?

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2 thoughts on “Purim 101

  1. If I had somebody to celebrate it with, sure ;)I actually just wanted to comment on God not being mentioned–my family has gone to hear a rabbi from Israel speak a few times, and once he mentioned the book of Esther and that tradition of reading it every year. He said that at the time the book was written, the Jews were still living in fear of persecution because of their religion, and so they left out direct references to God for protection. But, he said, they intentionally used the phrase “the king” often as a dual reference to Xerxes and to God. He said that they arrange it so the first word of every new column in the scroll is “the king.” So, for instance, the rabbi said that when Esther said, “But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days,” she was both talking about literally not seeing Xerxes for a month and also feeling so far from God that she was not sure He would grant her favor. It's interesting, anyway.

  2. That is interesting JennyBeth. I am finding there are a lot of things tucked away in the verses. Never anything mind blowing, but usually something that brings more meaning to what is already there.

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