“And the Jews experienced light and happiness, joy and honor (Esther 8:16),” this short verse near the end of The Megillah, the Scroll of Esther, captures the abiding promise of hope our ancestors found in this biblical book. As a people, we are survivors and Purim is one of the many Jewish holidays that celebrate survival.
We read the story of Purim, rooting for Esther, cheering Mordechai, laughing at King Ahasuerus, and drowning out the wicked Haman’s name with boos and noisemakers. We send gifts of sweet treats to our friends. We reach out our hand to the needy. And we pray that as the Jews of ancient Persia “experienced light and happiness, joy and honor,” we and our children should also be so blessed.
Purim is a holiday that expresses our hope in a better world. It is a holiday with a messianic vision. Our sages of old promise us that in the “World to Come, the Olam Habah” all of holidays except for Purim will be abolished (Midrash Mishlei 9:2). Purim, however, is not the only day during the year in which we stress the messianic vision hidden in the story of Esther. We recall this hope and dream every week as we say farewell to the Shabbat with Havdalah. During this service there are a series of Biblical Verses that introduce the three blessings of Havdalah; the blessings over the wine, the spices and the twisted candle. As we prepare for these prayers we read the passage from the Megillah that describes our ancestors’ exhilaration at being saved from Haman’s plot, “And the Jews experienced light and happiness, joy and honor (Esther 8:16).” But, we do not end our prayer there. We also add the phrase “so may it be for us” expressing the hope that soon we may experience the joy of the “World to Come.”
The Book of Esther is a wonderful story. It is filled with intrigue and suspense, lust, love and violence. It is a story of bravery and daring. It tells of a great danger and a great deliverance. It contains some of the most memorable characters of our Bible. But beyond its literary merits and its historical significance, it is a story, that tells us not only of events in the distant past, but strengthens us with hope for a better future for us, for the people Israel, and for all the world.
This year’s Purim Celebration and Megillah reading, is March 6th at 6:30 pm. I hope you can join us.
Chag Purim Sameach