A Purim Message
This brief synopsis of the book of Esther will serve as a reminder of the text. After reviewing it, read the message that the L-rd has given to me for you lazmen hazeh!
The One-Minute Megilah of Esther
by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf
CHAPTER 1 -- KING AHASUERUS THROWS A PARTY
1. A lavish six-month celebration marks the third year in the reign of Ahasuerus, king of Persia.
2. Queen Vashti refuses the king's request to appear at the celebration and display her beauty for the assembled guests.
3. The king's advisors counsel that Vashti be replaced with a new queen.
CHAPTER 2 -- ESTHER BECOMES THE QUEEN
1. Across the Persian Empire, officials are appointed to identify beautiful candidates to succeed Vashti as queen.
2. A Jewish girl, Hadassah, the niece of Mordechai, is brought to the capitol of Persia as one of the candidates.
3. Mordechai tells her to conceal her identity. So, Hadassah takes the name Esther.
4. Esther is chosen to be the queen.
5. Mordechai learns of a plot to overthrow the king. Mordechai informs Esther, Esther tells the king, and the plotters are hung.
CHAPTER 3 -- THE RISE OF HAMAN
1. Ahasuerus appoints Haman to be his prime minister. All bow in homage to Haman.
2. Mordechai consistently refuses to bow to Haman.
3. An enraged Haman vows to kill all the Jews of Persia.
4. Haman prevails upon Ahasuerus to destroy the Jews.
5. A royal edict is disseminated throughout Persia. The 13th of Adar is designated as the date to exterminate all the Jews and plunder their possessions.
CHAPTER 4 -- ESTHER'S MISSION BECOMES CLEAR
1. Mordechai tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of public mourning.
2. Mordechai sends a copy of the decree to Esther and asks her to intercede with the king.
3. Esther replies that to approach the king without being summoned is to risk death.
4. Mordechai tells her that she has no choice.
5. Esther tells Mordechai to ask the Jews to fast and pray for three days before she will approach the king.
CHAPTER 5 -- ESTHER'S STRATEGY, HAMAN'S FURY
1. King Ahasuerus receives Esther and grants her virtually any request.
2. Esther's request: that the king and Haman join her at a banquet.
3. After the banquet, Haman sees Mordechai who once again refuses to bow.
4. When Zeresh, Haman's wife, suggests that Mordechai be hung, the gallows are prepared.
CHAPTER 6 -- THE REVERSAL BEGINS
1. The king can't sleep and asks to hear the royal chronicles.
2. For the first time, the king learns of the assassination plot that Mordechai had revealed.
3. That same night, Haman comes to see the king about hanging Mordechai.
4. Before Haman can speak, the king tells Haman to honor Mordechai by dressing him in royal garments, to place him on a royal stallion and to personally lead him through the streets of Shushan, capitol of Persia.
CHAPTER 7 -- REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
1. At the second banquet, Esther reveals her identity and announces that she and her people are about to be murdered.
2. Esther identifies Haman as her archenemy.
3. The king has Haman hung on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordechai.
CHAPTER 8 -- THE REVERSAL IS COMPLETE
1. Mordechai is named prime minister to replace Haman.
2. A second royal edict is promulgated empowering the Jews to fight and kill anyone who would try to harm them.
CHAPTER 9 -- THE HOLIDAY OF PURIM
1. On the 13th of Adar, a day that had been designated for Jewish destruction, the Jews are victorious over their enemies.
2. The 10 sons of Haman are hung.
3. The 14th and 15th of Adar are designated to celebrate the salvation. These are the days of Purim.
4. Mordechai initiates the Purim practices -- consisting of a festive meal, the exchange of gifts of food, and the giving of monetary gifts to the poor.
CHAPTER 10 -- MORDECHAI AND PERSIA
1. Persia, with Mordechai as prime minister, flourishes.
2. The role of Mordechai in the history of the Persian Empire is recorded in the king's chronicles.
So, this is the story of Esther; the only book in the bible that does not contain the name of G-d. But throughout the message is the revelation of G-d’s plans for Israel and for His people. Twice Mordechai is used by G-d to reveal a plot to the king. The first one would have brought destruction to the king himself; the second would have caused the destruction of the Jewish people throughout much of the world. But let’s look a little deeper. In the first instance of revelation, Mordechai goes to Esther, his cousin and tells her of the plot that would kill her husband, and would, therefore, have taken away her lofty position as well. She immediately goes to the king with the news and all is saved!
But after some time passes, her cousin returns with news of an even more far-reaching nature - a plot to destroy her own people. But Esther’s answer is an excuse. Too often we take her answer for its face value. Only that she would like to help, but was restrained from doing so by the stern edict of the king. We forget that this is the girl who had stolen the heart of a man who had - for over a year – nightly, sampled the finest, most beautiful virgins from 127 provinces stretching from India to central Africa. This woman could not go before the king with an urgent message?
I think that rather, Esther was quite comfortable as Queen Esther. She had no desire to become known again as Hadassah, the Jewish girl. She was loving being the wife of the leader of a gentile kingdom! She had turned her back on everything Jewish and had fully become that which her family feared – a Gentile, content to see the destruction of the Jewish people with whom she had nothing in common.
Let’s look at Esther’s situation. She is the Queen and no one even knows she is Jewish. Now, her cousin, who raised her like a daughter, comes along and solicits her help in saving all of her own people. She is not connected to them at all. She has a very nice life and all is well. In order to do as her cousin asks, she would have to lay her reputation down and let her heritage be known. Rather than give up a life of ease, she made an excuse to Mordechai that could, she supposed, keep her secret a bit longer. His response is not only a message to this “hidden Jew” but to all of us who are hidden in our churches and in our own comfort zones.
And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:13,14 Emphasis added)
All who are in Messiah are Spiritual Sons of Abraham, and are, therefore truly grafted into the tree, which provides life. Within the Church are those who rejoice at being grafted into their heritage and who are partakers of the blessings promised to G-d’s people through His covenant with the Jewish people. Yet, there are those who deny the purposes of G-d for such a time as this and who actually allow themselves to become the enemies of the Jewish people and, in doing so, they become the enemies of G-d. Today, the world is filled with those who either desire the destruction of the land and the people of Israel or who are content to see it come to pass. These have become the enemies of G-d.
Psalm 83 declares:
Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, And consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they have consulted together with one consent;
They form a confederacy against You:
When the world was bringing destruction to 6 million Jews in Europe, most of the world stood by in silence. Today, there is a greater awareness of the Jewish heritage of Christianity than there was sixty years ago, yet today, there are those who are standing by to watch the nation of Israel come under the attack of the enemies of G-d who have formed a confederacy against Israel and against the G-d of Israel. Yet, many stand silently by. I ask you, as Mordechai asked, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Deliverance will come to the Jews from somewhere. It always has and it must because the gifts and the callings of the L-rd are without repentance. He cannot change His mind about those He calls His firstborn, His beloved. Today, as we celebrate this Purim, this time of remembrance and of rehearsal of the redemption of Israel, will you stand before the King? Will you remind Him of His promises to Israel and give Him no rest until He establishes, until He makes Jerusalem a praise in all the earth?
The Psalmist identifies those who are against the people of G-d and against the land of Israel as the enemies of G-d. Yet, this plea for rescue from these enemies, for G-d to intervene and to destroy those who come against the people of G-d, rather unexpectedly concludes with a plea on behalf of these enemies:
O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
Fill their faces with shame,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
Let them be confounded and dismayed forever;
Yes, let them be put to shame and perish,
That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.
It is not the Arabs who are the enemies of Israel. It is the blindness of Islam that has taken hold of a people and that has corrupted the entire world. Yet, as we pray for the destruction of Islam, we pray too that the Arabs will see that G-d alone is the L-rd. We pray for the salvation of those whom have been blinded and who are themselves manipulated by lies.
Will you join us in this prayer? Will you stand with the land and the people of Israel on this day? Will you remember your heritage and not shrink back from it? Will you continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the salvation of Israel from the destruction of the Islamic agenda of destruction?
Will you continue to pray for Carol and for me as we serve the L-rd as He leads us both here in Israel, in America and around the world? We need you now, more than ever. Chag Semeach (Happy Holiday) to you all.
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