Thursday, February 25, 2010


Queen Esther from The Book of Esther

The Scroll from The Book of Esther
Sunday, February 28th is the Jewish holiday of Purim. The holiday of Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people, in the Persian kingdom of Ahasuerus, from the attempt to annihilate them. The story was documented in the Scroll (Book) of Esther (מְגִילַת אֶסְתֵּר, Megilat Ester), which became the last of the 24 books of the Tanach (תנ"ך, the Bible).

The Story of Queen Esther:

Three years after becoming the King of Persia, King Achashverosh made a big feast to show off the rich treasures of his kingdom. The celebration lasted six months!!! When the King called Queen Vashti to show off her beauty she refused to come. Haman advised him to get rid of his insubordinate wife and to find a better one in her place. The King's agents were sent to all the countries of the Kingdom to search for beautiful young girls as candidates for the role of the Queen. Esther was chosen by the King to become the new Queen of Persia. She followed Mordechai's advice and didn't tell the King that she was Jewish.

In the meantime, Mordechai overheard that two of the King's servants became angry with the King and planned to kill him. He told Esther about the plot and she told it to the King. The servants were hanged and the story was written in the King's private record book.
Achashverosh's advisor, Haman, became the most important officer of the King and therefore everyone had to bow to him. Mordechai refused to do so and it made Haman so angry that he decided to kill Mordechai and all his people, meaning all the Jews in the entire Kingdom of Achashverosh.

Haman made a PUR (פּוּר, lottery) to choose the day to kill the Jews. The chosen date was the 13th day of the month of Adar (י"ג אֲדָר). Haman had a very easy task in persuading Achashverosh to support this act and the orders to destroy the Jews and steal their property were sent throughout the kingdom.

Mordechai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of public mourning. He asked Esther to go to the King, to beg him, and to plead with him for her people. The problem was that if someone (including the Queen) approached the King without being called, he or she was sentenced to death unless the King pointed his gold scepter at that person. Esther asked Mordechai to gather the Jews in Shushan and fast for her for three days before she went to the King against the law. When Achashverosh saw Queen Esther, he was pleased with her and pointed his scepter toward her. Esther asked the King and Haman to come to a party she had prepared and at that party she asked them to join her at another party on the following day.

On his way home from Esther's party Haman met Mordechai and the latter did not even move to show his respect to the high officer. The furious Haman consulted with his friends and family and decided to make a gallows to hang Mordechai on it. 

That night the king couldn't sleep so he asked his servants to read for him from his private record book. He was read about Mordechai who revealed the plot to kill the King and realized that Mordechai was not rewarded. As Haman was in the palace (to ask the King's permission to hang Mordechai), Achashverosh decided to consult with him about the reward. Haman, thinking that the King wanted to reward him, suggested that one of the King's highest officers should dress the man with royal robes and crown and lead him on a royal horseback through the city square calling "This is what is done for the man whom the King wants to honor." Instead of hanging Mordechai, Haman ended up dressing Mordechai in royal robes and leading him on the horse through the city square.

On the following day Achashverosh and Haman went to Esther's second party. Achashverosh asked Esther to tell him her request promising to fulfill it. Esther revealed her secret Jewish identity and requested for her life and the lives of her people. She pointed at Haman as the "brain" behind the plan to destroy her people. The furious King ordered to hang Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordechai. Achashverosh gave Mordechai the role of Haman as second in command to the King.

The orders to kill the Jews were called off and the Jews were permitted to join together and defend themselves. On the day that the Jewish Nation was to be destroyed, the Jews celebrated their victory over their enemies and all of Haman's sons were hanged.

Mordechai set the 14th and 15th days of Adar as a holiday called "Purim" (from the word PUR) to be celebrated every year. Those were the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and that was the month that had been changed for them from sorrow to gladness and from sadness to a holiday. These days are days of feasting and gladness, and of sending food to friends and gifts to the poor.
The story ends with the command to celebrate this day every year in joy and festivity and by sending gifts to each other.

כַּיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר-נָחוּ בָהֶם הַיְּהוּדִים מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה, וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב; לַעֲשׂוֹת אוֹתָם, יְמֵי מִשְׁתֶּה וְשִׂמְחָה, וּמִשְׁלֹחַ מָנוֹת אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ, וּמַתָּנוֹת לָאֶבְיֹנִים. 
אסתר ט', כ"ב
the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.
(Esther, 9:22),,


Eva Jex said...

There are 2 things I find interesting in this story, 1 is that Vashti was a woman who probably had some kind of morals since she wouldnt be put on display and because she stood up for it, she was replaced as quickly as that ( so similar to today's living), 2 was that in those days the king had to point his scepter at you or you would be killed........THATS ROUGH!!! What if the one day you were feeling confident, that was the one day he was in a nasty mood. Whew!!!

Anonymous said...

I would probably be a Vasthi....thank goodness we are no longer in those times.....

Linda Crawford said...

Eva,In the case of Vashti, I think she was a great woman who stood up to the establishments of those days.

Today when we look at the women of Iran (Persia) they are still living under siege from the very same establishments. They are less that second class citizens and have no rights in the 21stCentury.

And in regards to the king and his scepter,life in Iran(Persia)have not changed much. How many people were hanged a couple of weeks ago, and for what, standing up for their human rights.

Thanks Eva, I appreciate your comment!