By Tom Holmes
The Jewish holiday of Purim will begin at sundown on Thursday, March 7—next week.
Following is a summary of the biblical story which is the basis of the holiday. I cut it from the Chabad website and pasted it below. It’s a great story. Happy Purim.
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It all began in Ancient Persia in the 4th century BCE. The Holy Temple that had stood in Jerusalem was destroyed more than 50 years earlier, and the Jews were subjects of the mighty Persian empire which extended over 127 lands.
King Ahasuerus had just had his wife executed, but then found that he was lonely for a wife. His servants suggested that he orchestrate a beauty pageant. Officers would be appointed in all the king's lands, and all beautiful girls would be brought to Ahasuerus. And the girl who would find favor in the king's eyes would be the new queen.
The leader of the Jews at that time was a Shushanite resident named Mordechai. He had a cousin, Esther, who was orphaned as a young girl. Mordechai raised her and treated her as a daughter. Though she had no desire to be the queen, Esther was forcibly taken to the king's harem, to participate in the contest. When Esther appeared before the king, he immediately liked her, and Esther became the new Queen of Persia. But as per Mordechai's directive, Esther refused to divulge her nationality—even to the king.
Shortly after Esther became queen, Mordechai overheard two of the king's chamberlains discussing a plot to assassinate the king. Mordechai had them reported, and the traitors were hanged.
Meanwhile, Haman, one of Ahasuerus' ministers, was promoted to the position of Prime Minister. Haman was a virulent Jew hater; in fact he was a descendant of the notoriously anti-Semitic nation of Amalek.
Haman approached Ahasuerus and offered him 10,000 silver talents in exchange for permission to exterminate the Jews. Ahasuerus, who was no friend of the Jews either, told Haman, "The money is yours to keep, and the nation is yours to do with as you please."
Haman immediately sent proclamations to all the king's land. These declarations, sealed with the royal signet ring, ordered the people to rise up against the Jews and kill them all – men, women, and children – on the following 13th of Adar.
Esther agreed to approach the king. But she asked Mordechai to gather all the Jews in Shushan and let them all fast for three days and nights. And after this fast Esther would put her life in her hands and approach the king.
Sleep eluded the king that night, so he asked his servants to read for him from the Royal Chronicles. They complied with the king's orders. They read from the Chronicles how Mordechai saved the king's life when two of his chamberlains hatched a plot to kill him.
"Was he rewarded for this fine act?" Ahasuerus asked. "No he was not," the servants responded.
At that moment Haman entered the king's courtyard. His purpose? To ask the king's permission to hang Mordechai! Before Haman could utter a word, Ahasuerus addressed him: "My Haman, in your estimation, what shall be done to a person whom the king wishes to honor?"
Haman, who was certain that the king wished to honor him, responded: "Bring royal garment and a royal horse. And let one of the king's nobles dress the man and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, 'So is done for the man whom the king wishes to honor!'"
"Great idea," Ahasuerus responded. "Now go get the garments and the horse and do so for Mordechai the Jew!"
"What is your request?" a curious King Ahasuerus asked Esther at another feast.
"If I have found favor in your eyes, O King," Esther pleaded, "and if it pleases the king, let my life be granted me by my plea, and the life of my people by my request. For my people and I have been sold to be annihilated, killed and destroyed!" Esther then identified Haman as the evil person who wished to perpetrate this atrocity.
The king was greatly angered. When he was then informed that Haman had built a gallows for Mordechai, he ordered that Haman be hanged on that very gallows.
But Esther was far from satisfied. Haman was dead, but his evil decree was still in effect. According to Persian law, once a king issues a decree it can not be rescinded. But the king gave Mordechai and Esther permission, and they promptly wrote up a decree that countermanded Haman's edict. The decree granted the Jews permission to defend themselves against their enemies. And by this time, considering that all knew that the queen and Prime Minister were both Jewish, no one would prevent the Jews from doing just that!
And the Jews in Shushan were oh so happy. Celebrations abounded!