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Bravo
03-22-2008, 10:16 PM
not sure if this should be in TIO or here, but i have a question:

the book of esther essentially describes how jews were saved from a genocide, but ended up killing some 75K of their enemies - children and women included.

so i have always been meaning to ask: what exactly are jews celebrating on purim?

StephanieFox
03-22-2008, 10:53 PM
I am going to answer this very carefully, because I detect the strong smell of anti-Semitism in your question.

It it obvious that you don't understand this holiday in the least.
This story is apocryphal, of course. There probably was no Esther or Mrodechai. It is the metaphorical story of Jews standing up to their oppressors and winning.

Do you cry for Hitler and his henchmen? Do you wonder why people celebrate the end of the Nazis? Of course not.

If you knew anything about Purim, you'd realize that it is basically a holiday for parody, costumes and fun. No one 'celebrates' dead Persians, but we are glad for any story where Jews stand up to anti-Semites and survive. Am I wrong that you would be happier if the bad Persians had gone ahead with their plan and killed all the Jews in this fairytale?

For those who have posted in the past, wondering if Jews would be offended by a certain story line where 'evil Jews' have some sort of plot against Christians, please consider that it's this poster's question that makes us very sensitive to these things. I've also had people tell me that Passover was the holiday where the Jews worshiped Satan. Takes all kinds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purim

Sarita
03-22-2008, 11:01 PM
Just a friendly reminder that we need to play nice. Don't give mommy a reason to spank you. :)


Let's be sure to maintain a level of respect for one another. Feel free to ask poignant questions. And answer them, please! Just respect your fellow writers.

donroc
03-22-2008, 11:02 PM
Bravo, the duck.

rugcat
03-22-2008, 11:03 PM
I've posted this link concerning Purim (http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Area=sd&ID=SP35402) before, but it's always a good reminder for those interested in Jewish holidays and how they are perceived by some.

Don't forget to bring the cookies!

Autodidact
03-22-2008, 11:10 PM
Like most Jewish holidays, Purim goes as follows: They tried to kill us. They failed. Let's eat.

Bravo
03-22-2008, 11:15 PM
I am going to answer this very carefully, because I detect the strong smell of anti-Semitism in your question.

cute.




It it obvious that you don't understand this holiday in the least.

which is why i asked for clarification.

but thank you.


This story is apocryphal, of course. There probably was no Esther or Mrodechai. It is the metaphorical story of Jews standing up to their oppressors and winning.

that's great if it's a metaphor, but it's really irrelevant to the question itself.



If you knew anything about Purim, you'd realize that it is basically a holiday for parody, costumes and fun. No one 'celebrates' dead Persians, but we are glad for any story where Jews stand up to anti-Semites and survive. Am I wrong that you would be happier if the bad Persians had gone ahead with their plan and killed all the Jews in this fairytale?

yes you'd be wrong, and your hysteria and hyper-defensiveness over this is very amusing to watch.



For those who have posted in the past, wondering if Jews would be offended by a certain story line where 'evil Jews' have some sort of plot against Christians, please consider that it's this poster's question that makes us very sensitive to these things. I've also had people tell me that Passover was the holiday where the Jews worshiped Satan. Takes all kinds.


you started with an ad homiem attack, and now you're ending with one, so at least you're consistent. i never brought up anything other than the original story and what is being celebrated there.

but thanks for trying to explain the holiday.

you did your best, i'm sure.

Bravo
03-22-2008, 11:16 PM
I've posted this link concerning Purim (http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Area=sd&ID=SP35402) before, but it's always a good reminder for those interested in Jewish holidays and how they are perceived by some.

Don't forget to bring the cookies!

okay...so what does this have to do with the actual holiday?

Bravo
03-22-2008, 11:23 PM
i purposefully did not post this in your purim OP thread, stephanie, but i was hoping for some clarification among jews.

since i cant get that without being denigrated as an anti-semite with genocidal tendencies i would appreciate it if the mods deleted this thread.

i'll ask somewhere else.

thank you

Sarita
03-22-2008, 11:26 PM
Bravo. Get back here.

Your original question was fine. Laced with a bit of cynicism, but I wouldn't have called it anti-semitic. Just play nice. Everyone. We have a lot to learn from one another.

Medievalist
03-22-2008, 11:50 PM
The basic text is in the Biblical Book of Esther. Here's a decent but colloquial modern translation (http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/purim/esther_intro.html), and here's the King James version (http://alexanderscourby.com/kjv-bible/Esther/index.html).

I'm going to quote from the colloquial version:


8 Haman said to King Achashvairosh, "There is a nation scattered and separated among the nations throughout your empire. Their laws are different than everyone else's, they do not obey the king's laws, and it does not pay for the king to tolerate their existence.

9 "If it pleases the king, let a law be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay to the executors ten thousand silver Kikar-coins for the king's treasury."

Esther persuades King Achashvairosh to reverse his decision, and the Jews are spared. The next two bits are the texts featured at the Purim service.


She said, "If it pleases the king, and if the king likes me, and if he thinks this is a good idea, and if he approves of me, let a decree be written to repeal the decree of the plot of Haman, son of Hamdoso the Agagite, which was to kill the Jews throughout the empire.


The Jews were now able to enjoy the light of Torah, the delight of the Jewish Holidays, the joy of performing the Commandment of Circumcision, and the precious honor of the Commandment of tefillin.


Now here's the part about the Jews turning on their enemies. Notice that the Jews are defending, from within the city; they are not going to their enemies:


2 Throughout King Achashvairosh's provinces the Jews gathered in their cities to defend themselves against those who tried to hurt them. No one could withstand them, because everyone was afraid of them.


And here's the beginning of Purim (Pur = Lottery; the day for the demise of the Jews was chosen by lot):



16 The Jews in the rest of the empire also gathered to defend themselves and get peace from their enemies, and they killed a total of seventy-five thousand, but they did not pillage their property.

17 They fought their battle on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and they rested on the fourteenth. So they made the fourteenth day of Adar a day of feasting and celebration.

18 But the Jews of Shushan gathered together on the thirteenth and the fourteenth days of Adar, and rested on the fifteenth day, so they made the fifteenth day of Adar a day of feasting and celebration.

Now, whether or not you intended it, whether it's simply a matter of not paying attention or not being in as much control of your own prose as you ought to be, your original post was inflammatory:




the book of esther essentially describes how jews were saved from a genocide, but ended up killing some 75K of their enemies - children and women included.

so i have always been meaning to ask: what exactly are jews celebrating on purim?

I'd like to point out that the text of the Book of Esther (the only source we have) doesn't mention women or children being killed; just men.

So that's sort of sticks out in your post--you're presenting it in a negative light to begin with. The tone is one of accusation, not a genuine question from a neutral point of view.

Then the subsequent post:


i purposefully did not post this in your purim OP thread, stephanie, but i was hoping for some clarification among jews.

since i cant get that without being denigrated as an anti-semite with genocidal tendencies i would appreciate it if the mods deleted this thread.

Is at best sulky.

Moreover--you don't have to actually know the Hebrew text or history--you could have Googled the primary source text in a minute, maybe two.

So yeah, you look pretty anti-Semitic.

Bravo
03-22-2008, 11:58 PM
I'd like to point out that the text of the Book of Esther (the only source we have) doesn't mention women or children being killed; just men.

So that's sort of sticks out in your post--you're presenting it in a negative light to begin with. The tone is one of accusation, not a genuine question from a neutral point of view.

where have you gotten this?

this is what i have always read:



11 The decree stated that the king permits the Jews of each city to gather and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and eradicate all the armies menacing them, children and women, and to pillage their property,

http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/purim/esther8.html


8:11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Bible/Esther.html



Is at best sulky.

Moreover--you don't have to actually know the Hebrew text or history--you could have Googled the primary source text in a minute, maybe two.

So yeah, you look pretty anti-Semitic.

that's incredibly unfair. after i was accused of being anti-semitic by stephanie, and dismissed by rugcat, i felt that nothing can be gained from having this thread here.

and it's very presumptuous of you to assume that i didnt google this. hopefully these two jewish sources that i just showed can clarify things.

Medievalist
03-23-2008, 12:05 AM
Bravo vBulletin ate half my post


I'd like to point out that the text of the Book of Esther (the only source we have) doesn't mention women or children being killed; just men.



where have you gotten this?


Look at your kinda bad translation:



11 The decree stated that the king permits the Jews of each city to gather and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and eradicate all the armies menacing them, children and women, and to pillage their property,
http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/purim/esther8.html

The "them" before children and women refers the children and women of the Jews, not their enemies. Here's the King James version:


8:11
Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,

Medievalist
03-23-2008, 12:10 AM
that's incredibly unfair. after i was accused of being anti-semitic by stephanie, and dismissed by rugcat, i felt that that nothing can be gleaned from having this thread here.

and it's very presumptuous of you to assume that i didnt google this. hopefully these two jewish sources that i just showed can clarify things.

Dude, the reason you were accused of antisemitism is because your initial tone, and your interpretation of the text, are both pretty much the ones used by anti-semites.

And yeah, you're still sulky sounding.

David Erlewine
03-23-2008, 12:17 AM
Bravo, you are the Haman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bravo
03-23-2008, 12:20 AM
okay that's exactly what i was looking for. the story seemed to be a celebration of vengeance, the oppressed finally getting back at the oppressors, and it seemed to be very much unlike other jewish holidays.

75K is a really high number of people killed, especially for that time, but i'm glad that this wasnt about having women and children killed, it was about destroying the other army.

Bravo
03-23-2008, 12:41 AM
Dude, the reason you were accused of antisemitism is because your initial tone, and your interpretation of the text, are both pretty much the ones used by anti-semites.

And yeah, you're still sulky sounding.

it's an unusual holiday and one that is misunderstood by many people, including many jews who i have talked to and do not really know the basics of the story. they just say that it's fun, which is fine and good but it still leaves questions.

so you're right, i am sulking. i think rather than label people as anti-semitic for questioning the purpose of this holiday, it would be far more productive to simply explain the basis for the holiday and what it means for jews.


Bravo, you are the Haman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

funny.

Medievalist
03-23-2008, 12:56 AM
okay that's exactly what i was looking for. the story seemed to be a celebration of vengeance, the oppressed finally getting back at the oppressors, and it seemed to be very much unlike other jewish holidays.

75K is a really high number of people killed, especially for that time, but i'm glad that this wasnt about having women and children killed, it was about destroying the other army.

75K is historically way way off; most of that is associated with one city -- a city you used to be able to go see, but now? I don't even know if the ruins exist.

But it could never have held that many people, nor could the water supply have sufficed.

donroc
03-23-2008, 01:22 AM
And Esther was revered at St. Esther by Sephardic Jews secretly practicing Judaism in Spain and Portugal and later in the Dutch Republic.

Gray Rose
03-23-2008, 01:27 AM
Let's look at the Heb. for a moment (all translations mine):

8.11
אשר נתן המלך ליהודים אשר בכל-עיר-ועיר, להיקהל ולעמוד על-נפשם--להשמיד ולהרוג ולאבד את-כל-חיל עם ומדינה
הצרים אותם, טף ונשים; ושללם, לבוז
..that the king gave to the Jews that are in each in every city, to congregate and to defend themselves - to destroy , kill and make perish all the armies of a people and province that are assaulting them, women and children; and their property, to pillage.

I take women and children to mean , i.e. the Jews have a dispensation to kill not only "hayil" (soldiers) but their women and children. The syntax is ambiguous here, but I am pretty sure the "taf vanashim" refers to women and children of the enemies of the Jews; the pronominal reference would be different if women and children of the Jews were meant. Then again, the syntax of Esther tends to be weird due to Babylonian influences.

However, please remember that this phrasing is the dispensation from the king of what the Jews were permitted to do. What the Jews actually do is different:


9.15-16
וייקהלו היהודים אשר-בשושן, גם ביום ארבעה עשר לחודש אדר, ויהרגו בשושן, שלוש מאות איש; ובביזה--לא שלחו, את-ידם. ושאר היהודים אשר במדינות המלך נקהלו ועמוד על-נפשם, ונוח מאויביהם, והרוג בשונאיהם, חמישה ושבעים אלף; ובביזה--לא שלחו, את-ידם.
And the Jews in Susan the capital gathered also on the fourteenth of Hadar and killed in Susan 300 men ("ish") and did not lend their hands to pillage.
And the rest of the Jews that were in the provinces of the king congregated to defend themselves and to get respite from their enemies and to kill those who hated them, 75 thousand; and did not lend their hands to pillage.

[I]Anashim, nashim va-taf is an expression that means "men women, and children", showing that men (anashim; singular ish and counting form also ish) were counted separately from women and children. This shows us that in Susan the capital only 300 men were killed by the Jews.

As for whether women and children were killed by Jews in the provinces, the text does not give us an indication since only the numbers are mentioned. As far as I remember the commentators extrapolate from the happenings in Susan to claim that only men were killed in the provinces. I can open the relevant books if you have a real interest.

Beyond this purely academic discussion: no, we are certainly not celebrating the fact that so many people were killed, whether or not they were men, women and/or children. In most synagogues I have been to on Purim, these parts are read very quickly, though not erased (we should not be glossing over our history even when it becomes unpleasant).

As for what we are celebrating: we are celebrating the fact that despite the exile and the shameful and horrible situation for the Jewish people, in which a woman could be taken away from her guardian and basically raped (glamorously - by the king - but it does not change the fact that she was not asked and could be discarded at any moment like the other women before her) and despite the almost-genocide, Jews - through their faith, and smarts, and humility, and other good qualities - managed to avoid this fate.

Both Passover and Purim are essentially stories of almost-genocide and delivery. The difference between Purim and Passover lies, among other things, in the ways Jews remember their enemies. During the events of Passover, it is G-d who punishes the Egyptians by sending them the ten plagues. During Passover Seder(s) we grieve for the Egyptians by spilling drops of wine from our cups for every single plague.
During Purim, it is Jews themselves who punish their enemies, and the celebrations do not include any kind of commiseration for the enemies killed. This is why Passover is a major holiday and Purim a minor holiday.

Hope this helps.

P.S. Bravo, I also read your initial post as antisemitic. The kind of question they used to ask me before they would punch me on the nose for being Jewish.
I would advise you, if you did not intend to come across as antisemitic, to tamper your phrasing somewhat to avoid such misunderstandings in the future.

Rose

rugcat
03-23-2008, 01:29 AM
that's incredibly unfair. after i was accused of being anti-semitic by stephanie, and dismissed by rugcat, i felt that that nothing can be gained from having this thread here.Bravo, I apologize. Looking at the thread, I can see how it would be totally logical for you to assume I was aiming the link at you and accusing you of antisemitism in a backhanded fashion.

In truth, I only posted that link so that people stopping by could gain a small insight as to how Jews are portrayed by antisemites. It had nothing at all to do with you and really didn't even belong in the thread.

Although I did view the tone of your original post as somewhat confrontational. Maybe that's why that link jumped to mind.

Bravo
03-23-2008, 03:12 AM
thanks for clarifying rose (and rugcat).



As for whether women and children were killed by Jews in the provinces, the text does not give us an indication since only the numbers are mentioned. As far as I remember the commentators extrapolate from the happenings in Susan to claim that only men were killed in the provinces. I can open the relevant books if you have a real interest.

to me if the law was that a king's edict can't be changed or altered, then doesnt that mean that 75K men, women, and children would've been killed?

i dunno, like i said it's a bizarre story. steph mentioned celebrating the end of the holocaust earlier, but as far as i know, no one really "celebrates" the end of the holocaust, people solemnly reflect and mourn the loss of life. and in this ester story, the genocide against jews was prevented, so it doesn't make sense to even compare the two.

but let's forget about the story. thank you for explaining the purpose of the celebration. it makes more sense to me now.



P.S. Bravo, I also read your initial post as antisemitic. The kind of question they used to ask me before they would punch me on the nose for being Jewish.
I would advise you, if you did not intend to come across as antisemitic, to tamper your phrasing somewhat to avoid such misunderstandings in the future.

is criticizing judaism and/or jewish holidays anti-semitic? that's seems like a clumsy use of the word and ultimately intellectually unfair and dishonest.

hopefully that's not what you're saying.

Gray Rose
03-23-2008, 03:26 AM
thanks for clarifying rose (and rugcat).

to me if the law was that a king's edict can't be changed or altered, then doesnt that mean that 75K men, women, and children would've been killed?

No. The king's edict was clearly altered on three occasions: first, when the Jews of Susan killed only men, even though women and children were specified in the king's edict; second, when the Jews of Susan did not pillage when pillaging was specified; third, when the Jews of the provinces did not pillage when pillaging was specified. This shows us that the king's edict can indeed be, if not changed or altered, but acted upon selectively. In addition, it suggests (though does not prove) that the Jews of the provinces did not kill women and children.

Re: antisemitism. It is not the content of your utterance, but the exact wording and tone of your original utterance (which, I believe, you subsequently edited) which provoked adverse reaction from the majority your respondents, including Medievalist and myself. The most harsh of criticisms, respectfully phrased, would not provoke such a reaction.
I advise you to lend this some thought.

Rose

Bravo
03-23-2008, 03:38 AM
No. The king's edict was clearly altered on three occasions: first, when the Jews of Susan killed only men, even though women and children were specified in the king's edict; second, when the Jews of Susan did not pillage when pillaging was specified; third, when the Jews of the provinces did not pillage when pillaging was specified. This shows us that the king's edict can indeed be, if not changed or altered, but acted upon selectively. In addition, it suggests (though does not prove) that the Jews of the provinces did not kill women and children.

okay this is where it got confusing:


A peculiarity of Persian law that also occurs in the Book of Daniel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Daniel) is that royal edicts of this sort could not be reversed, even by the king--by siding with the Jews instead of their persecutors the King presumably dissuaded any pogroms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogroms). The King also issued a second edict allowing the Jews to arm themselves, and this precipitated a series of reprisals by the Jews against their enemies. This fight began on the 13th of Adar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adar), the date the Jews were originally slated to be exterminated. The Jews killed three hundred in Susa alone, killing seventy-five thousand (fifteen thousand in the Greek biblical account) in the rest of the empire.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther



Re: antisemitism. It is not the content of your utterance, but the exact wording and tone of your original utterance (which, I believe, you subsequently edited)

actually i altered it pretty quickly, i didnt know how many persians were killed, and i had to go look that up.



which provoked adverse reaction from the majority your respondents, including Medievalist and myself. The most harsh of criticisms, respectfully phrased, would not provoke such a reaction.
I advise you to lend this some thought.

okay.

Gray Rose
03-23-2008, 03:40 AM
Bravo : I forgot to respond to you regarding the celebration of Holocaust. We do not celebrate Holocaust because there was no delivery for the Jews at that time, either through G-d or through human beings. Thus there is nothing to celebrate. Indeed, the lack of deliverance during Holocaust is a major problem in modern Jewish religious thought.

It would make more sense to compare Purim not to Holocaust, but to, say, Victory Day celebrations in the former Soviet Union and modern-day Russia. Russians (and Russian Jews) celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany despite the fact that millions of Germans were killed. Celebrating victories in a bloody conflict is a human trait, and those victories are especially important if they are considered defensive rather than offensive.

mscelina
03-23-2008, 03:52 AM
Just as an aside, Behold Your Queen! by Gladys Malvern (hard to find book) tells the story of Esther and Purim and is a fabulous story.

Gray Rose
03-23-2008, 03:57 AM
okay this is where it got confusing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther


Re: Persian law. I would not rely on Wikipedia exclusively. I am not an expert on Persian law, but I can still say that the law could be acted on selectively - we see it in the narrative, as I have mentioned.

It the edict cannot be reversed, then one could also claim in defense of the Jews that the Jews were not responsible for these killings - since they were performed under the duress of the kingly edict. I have never heard anyone claim that. Moreover, the original edict given to Haman allowing the Jews to be killed was reversed, which suggests more malleability than Wikipedia would let us believe. Then again, I am not well-read on this particular topic.

Needless to say, the narrative does not necessarily reflect the original historical occurrence, and we will be well-served by clearly separating the historical event (about which we know nothing) from the narrative we have at hand. What is of interest to us, it seems to me, is the narrative itself and its reception and interpretation in modern religious practice, rather than the original occurrence.

The narrative, I think, shows the Jews retaliating against the people who would kill them, shows the Jews killing hayil 'soldiers', does not show Jews kill women and children, and does not show Jews pillaging. And this is how we celebrate this event. It is a defensive victory with admitted loss of enemy life, however the emphasis of this holiday is different. We fast for Esther, who is fasting and praying for G-d to deliver the Jews from a seemingly hopeless situation, which miraculously happens. The celebration is therefore that of a miracle, and of divine providence. While the aftermath of this divine providence may seem less than savory, it is not the essence of this holiday, nor is it, IMHO, unsavory given general human experience and in particular the practices of the region.

Which is not to say the modern Jew has no problem with this. There is a problem. The problem is one of defensive violence versus nonviolence. The holocaust, which you can consider an example of how Jews behave without the divine providence, is a very good example of a nonviolent reaction to violence aimed at the Jewish people. And we all know what the result of this was - the end of Ashkenazi Jewry as we knew it, the death of Yiddish and the amazing secular vernacular culture it has produced, etc, etc. In case of Purim (and the Bar-Kokhba revolt, another apocryphal narrative) we have an example of active defense. I think it is a problem humanity in general, not just Jewry, faces quite often.

Hope this helps.

Bravo
03-23-2008, 04:02 AM
thank you for your informative posts

billythrilly7th
03-23-2008, 11:40 PM
Bravo, you are the Haman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:ROFL:


I love when Bravo asks sincere questions about Judaism in an attempt to educate himself.






:rolleyes:

Happy Purim and happy easter!

Sadly, I knew nothing of getting drunk on Purim until yesterday.

It should be promoted like St. paddy's day and cinco de Mayo if you ask me.

billythrilly7th
03-23-2008, 11:43 PM
Bravo : I forgot to respond to you regarding the celebration of Holocaust. We do not celebrate Holocaust because there was no delivery for the Jews at that time, either through G-d or through human beings.

What about Oskar Schindler?

There should be a Schindler Day IMO.

donroc
03-23-2008, 11:52 PM
Day of the Righteous?

Adelaide
04-30-2009, 05:53 PM
You could say that Passover, too, is another holiday celebrating success, with admitted loss of enemy life. That time it did include children, which is openly stated. (The death of the Egyptian firstborn, for those who don't know.) Rose made the important point that there is the eternal question for any group that faces annihilation or enslavement: what is the cost of our survival or freedom?

But in the end, Purim is just about getting ridiculously wasted and running around in a stupid costume.

semilargeintestine
04-30-2009, 11:39 PM
While I could see how one might see tones of anti-Semitism in bravo's original post, I think if one looks at his other post, it can be seen that it is just his way of asking questions. I really don't think bravo would come onto the Jewish forum and ask a question to try and bait us into admitting to celebrating the genocide of a people (although I would then ask why it is okay for Arabs to celebrate each time a Jew is killed and call for the extermination of our entire population, but that's a different thread).

Anyway, on to Purim. You can sum it up like this. Esther was a beautiful Jewish woman living in Persia. She was taken by the King of Persia to become part of his harem. He liked her more than any of the other woman, and made her his queen. He did not know Esther was a Jew because her cousin Mordecai (who raised her) warned her not to reveal the truth.

Haman, the King's evil advisor, disliked Mordecai and the Jews because they refused to bow to him. He convinced the King to allow him to deal with them, and plotted their extermination. Mordecai convinced Esther to speak to the King about the fate of the Jewish people, and she approached him knowing full well that she could be put to death for doing so. He welcomed her, and later she explained the situation. The King sentenced Haman to death, and he was hanged at the gallows prepared for Mordecai.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar (during a leap year, there are two months of Adar, and Purim is celebrated during Adar II so that it is a month before Passover). The 13th is when Haman had decided the Jews would be exterminated. The King gave the Jews permission to defend themselves, and they did so on the 13th, preventing their extermination. The next day, there was a celebration. Note that in cities that were walled during the time of Joshua, deliverance from the massacre was not received until the following day; therefore, those cities even now celebrate Purim on the 15th, known as Shushan Purim.

We are commanded to eat, drink, and be merry on Purim to celebrate our deliverance from what appeared to be certain extermination. The Talmud states that one should get drunk until he can no longer tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai." :D

The holiday boils down to this (and someone already said this): Someone tried to kill us. They failed. Let's eat (although I'd say, Let's celebrate.)

No one is celebrating the death of anyone. If no one attacked us, there would be no holiday because no one would have died. It is like that with a lot of situations related to Judaism.

Fun fact: my birthday on the Jewish calendar is the date of the Purim celebration. :D

Prawn
05-01-2009, 04:08 AM
Do you think that Purim inspired any of the costumed-ness of Halloween?

Medievalist
05-01-2009, 04:49 AM
Do you think that Purim inspired any of the costumed-ness of Halloween?

Nope. Positive it didn't.

semilargeintestine
05-02-2009, 12:49 AM
As far as I know, they have nothing to do with each other (well obviously Halloween wouldn't have influenced Purim). The costumes worn on Purim have meaning. They reflect the theme of the Megillah. Halloween is just about candy.

We get drunk on Purim. :D

Adelaide
05-25-2009, 03:14 PM
Halloween's costumes have meaning too, don't they? Don't ask me what they are, but I think they had origins in something spiritual or superstitious or something.

semilargeintestine
08-01-2009, 02:55 AM
I dunno. I was born on Purim, so I naturally like it better. Also, I don't celebrate Halloween, so there you go.

mayamolly
08-02-2009, 03:35 PM
I'm researching a novel on Esther right now, and I think Bravo's question is great-- that had always bothered me in reading the Megilla. However, I feel I understand the story better now. I haven't read every post in this thread carefully, so I'm sorry if I'm repeating what has already been said--

1. As others said, Ahashverosh's initial decree was unalterable. However, this initial decree did not say that the Persian army (which was incredibly powerful) would carry out this genocide, but that the people in all the provinces of the Persian empire were freed on that day to kill all the Jews and plunder their property. Up until this point, Jews were given remarkable freedom in the Persian empire (in contrast to the Babylonian empire), so this decree represented a sharp departure from the policies of religious freedom (kinda) that had enabled Jews to gain significant power and wealth.

2. The Persian empire was huge and basically included all Jews, everywhere-- so this is a Final Solution of the worst kind. Haman was somewhat brilliant in giving peoples everywhere an excuse to murder and steal from a group of wealthy outsiders in the Persian empire... this kept the Persian army from doing "dirty work." This meant, though, that the Persian king wouldn't benefit from this act, so Haman himself paid the King a HUGE sum to offset any lost income. This all goes to show the depth of Haman's hatred, which went beyond any kind of selfish gain-- and his confidence in the existence of a wellspring of anti-Semitism throughout the Persian Empire to carry out his genocidal plan.

3. When Esther realized that this decree could not be repealed, she attempted to issue a counter-decree-- that rather than the Persian army tacitly allowing this genocide and robbery (as did the Russian army during Eastern European pogroms), the Persian army would actively back (and probably arm) the Jews in self-defense. Moreover, this decree stated that the Jews had permission to fight back against their attackers and plunder all the belongings of their attackers. In other words, it was as close to a complete symbolic reversal of the decree as possible. As this decree, too, was widely publicized, its intent was to prevent these attacks on the Jewish people from taking place. (However, note that the Persian army could not directly have punished the attackers because the attacks were permitted in the first place by Persian law. It's a very messed up situation-- the ONLY recourse in case of attack was for Jews to kill or be killed.)

4. So the day of the "lots" comes, and STILL thousands rise up to kill the Jews for no reason other than greed (stealing the Jews' possessions) and hatred of a people who were different. The Jews are allowed to defend themselves, though, and they are armed-- so this is a bit like giving the inmates of Auschwitz or the Warsaw Ghetto weapons to fight off the Nazis. The numbers of the people the Jews WERE forced to kill speaks of the depth of the danger the Jews were in-- only the hard-core radical anti-Semites remained, as the Jews were now only being attacked by people who were disregarding the change in Persian favor, yet it's STILL a huge number. So while it's horrible that so many people died, those killed were hardly innocent... and it is a miracle that the Jewish people survived this most dangerous attack on our existence. (I'm semi-convinced the story is true, btw. If nothing else, the details of the Persian court are mostly accurate!)

5. In a final moral victory, the Jews deliberately ignored the portion of the second decree (the one in their favor) that said THEY were allowed to plunder the belongings of their attackers. Instead, the Jews simply fought off all those who insisted on still attacking them, but refused to gain economically from the deaths of these attackers.

I'll admit I wish the book of Esther had something in it like the line after the Egyptian army perished in the Red Sea-- i.e., "My people are dying, and you celebrate?" Still, after thinking and reading a lot more about this book, I appreciate why this is a celebration and a miracle.

Just my thoughts!

Maya

mayamolly
08-02-2009, 06:02 PM
As far as I know, they have nothing to do with each other (well obviously Halloween wouldn't have influenced Purim). The costumes worn on Purim have meaning. They reflect the theme of the Megillah. Halloween is just about candy. :D

Heh, say that to all the Israeli teenagers who flock to the mall to show off their costumes on Purim... I didn't see any Queen Esther or Uncle Mordechai, but I did see sexy nurse, sexy honey bee, sexy soccer player, and even (this was the most bizarre) sexy santa. :) Ah well. I think some of that is halloween's influence seeping back into Purim. I posted a picture on my blog-- http://howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com/2009/03/lesson-14-happy-purim-now-go-to-mall.html (http://howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com/2009/03/lesson-14-happy-purim-now-go-to-mall.html)

Then there was the community parade featuring kids from local elementary schools dressed up as traffic signals. That was interesting.

I love Purim, though!

semilargeintestine
08-02-2009, 08:57 PM
I'm researching a novel on Esther right now, and I think Bravo's question is great-- that had always bothered me in reading the Megilla. However, I feel I understand the story better now. I haven't read every post in this thread carefully, so I'm sorry if I'm repeating what has already been said--

1. As others said, Ahashverosh's initial decree was unalterable. However, this initial decree did not say that the Persian army (which was incredibly powerful) would carry out this genocide, but that the people in all the provinces of the Persian empire were freed on that day to kill all the Jews and plunder their property. Up until this point, Jews were given remarkable freedom in the Persian empire (in contrast to the Babylonian empire), so this decree represented a sharp departure from the policies of religious freedom (kinda) that had enabled Jews to gain significant power and wealth.

2. The Persian empire was huge and basically included all Jews, everywhere-- so this is a Final Solution of the worst kind. Haman was somewhat brilliant in giving peoples everywhere an excuse to murder and steal from a group of wealthy outsiders in the Persian empire... this kept the Persian army from doing "dirty work." This meant, though, that the Persian king wouldn't benefit from this act, so Haman himself paid the King a HUGE sum to offset any lost income. This all goes to show the depth of Haman's hatred, which went beyond any kind of selfish gain-- and his confidence in the existence of a wellspring of anti-Semitism throughout the Persian Empire to carry out his genocidal plan.

3. When Esther realized that this decree could not be repealed, she attempted to issue a counter-decree-- that rather than the Persian army tacitly allowing this genocide and robbery (as did the Russian army during Eastern European pogroms), the Persian army would actively back (and probably arm) the Jews in self-defense. Moreover, this decree stated that the Jews had permission to fight back against their attackers and plunder all the belongings of their attackers. In other words, it was as close to a complete symbolic reversal of the decree as possible. As this decree, too, was widely publicized, its intent was to prevent these attacks on the Jewish people from taking place. (However, note that the Persian army could not directly have punished the attackers because the attacks were permitted in the first place by Persian law. It's a very messed up situation-- the ONLY recourse in case of attack was for Jews to kill or be killed.)

4. So the day of the "lots" comes, and STILL thousands rise up to kill the Jews for no reason other than greed (stealing the Jews' possessions) and hatred of a people who were different. The Jews are allowed to defend themselves, though, and they are armed-- so this is a bit like giving the inmates of Auschwitz or the Warsaw Ghetto weapons to fight off the Nazis. The numbers of the people the Jews WERE forced to kill speaks of the depth of the danger the Jews were in-- only the hard-core radical anti-Semites remained, as the Jews were now only being attacked by people who were disregarding the change in Persian favor, yet it's STILL a huge number. So while it's horrible that so many people died, those killed were hardly innocent... and it is a miracle that the Jewish people survived this most dangerous attack on our existence. (I'm semi-convinced the story is true, btw. If nothing else, the details of the Persian court are mostly accurate!)

5. In a final moral victory, the Jews deliberately ignored the portion of the second decree (the one in their favor) that said THEY were allowed to plunder the belongings of their attackers. Instead, the Jews simply fought off all those who insisted on still attacking them, but refused to gain economically from the deaths of these attackers.

I'll admit I wish the book of Esther had something in it like the line after the Egyptian army perished in the Red Sea-- i.e., "My people are dying, and you celebrate?" Still, after thinking and reading a lot more about this book, I appreciate why this is a celebration and a miracle.

Just my thoughts!

Maya

The story of Esther serves to show us what G-d's presence is like in a world where Jews are trying to assimilate and nearly all thought of our Forefathers and the Land of Israel are gone.

We can see this in the two types of miracles G-d performs. The first is the open miracle where G-d suspends the laws of nature (which He created) in order to perform a miracle, such as the parting of the Sea of Reeds or stopping the setting sun so that Joshua could lead the Jews to victory.

The other type of miracle is perfectly displayed in Megillat Esther. It is the type where G-d works with the laws of nature to facilitate certain events from happening in the way they need to happen. This helps our understanding of why such a secular book is included in the Bible.

First and foremost, G-d's Name appears nowhere in the Megilla, even when it is to be expected: "If you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source" (Esther 4:14). Rather than attributing the Jews' potential salvation directly to G-d, Mordekhai merely refers ambiguously to a "different source." Furthermore, when ordering the public fast upon her Jewish subjects, Esther omits any reference to prayer: "Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days. I and my maidens will observe the same fast" (4:16). Furthermore, the queen makes no mention of the unusual timing of the three-day fast, in the middle of the festival of Pesach.

The Megilla also provides no information regarding the religious observance, or lack thereof, of the Jews of the time. We know nothing about them, other than their identity as "Yehudim," Jews. The Megilla does not even explain why Mordekhai risks his life by refusing to prostrate himself before Haman, other than the fact that "he told them that he was a Jew." Such an explanation is in order, given the ample precedent for the permissibility of bowing down before another person (the prophet Natan bows down before King David - Melakhim I 1:23) and the ruling of the Rambam (Hilkhot Melakhim 2:8) that one may bow down before a king. Although Chazal offer various halakhic reasons for Mordekhai's refusal, the Megilla does not enlighten us on this issue.

In a similar vein, we are given no explanation of Haman's decree, other than the nationality of the people involved - "for they told him Mordekhai's nationality" (3:6). This also serves as the sole explanation offered to the people's rescue. Haman's wife and advisors remark, "If Mordekhai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish stock, you will not overcome him; you will fall before him to your ruin" (6:13). The Jews comprise a unique phenomenon; this is all we know. The Megilla offers no philosophical or spiritual basis for this enigma.

In addition, the historicity of the Megilla seems deliberately indifferent to world events of the time. It pretty much ignores that major historical events of Achashevrosh's reign. Why is the Megilla written in this way, almost completely opposite of the rest of the Tanakh? As opposed to the depiction of the Almighty's reign and His Providence over mankind, the Megilla illustrates--with obvious hyperbole--a kingdom which constitutes the antithesis of the Divine Kingdom, a kingdom devoid of any sacred quality and of anything associated with the Name of G-d.

Thus, we have the reason for Megillat Esther's inclusion in the Tanakh. It answers the question: who rules in an upside-down world? Without this book, it would seem that G-d is only present when spiritual legitimacy is obvious and the Divine Presence is clear to everyone in the world, i.e., as in Biblical times.

Think about the story. Everything just seems to happen by chance. People are in the right places at the right times, hearing or saying the right things at the proper moments. Seems to be a giant string of fortunate coincidences, right? There is a reason we say the blessing, "Who made miracles for our father in those days at this time..." The so-called "coincidences" are the miracles. G-d pushes us and moves us in the right direction so that we are able to fulfill our mission in this world. Whether we recognize it or not, He is always there controlling the world. In fact, while His name is not outright written in the book, it is encoded within the text many, many times. Even the book's major character is an allusion to the hidden Face of G-d in this type of world, for Esther means "hidden" in Hebrew.

semilargeintestine
08-02-2009, 08:58 PM
Heh, say that to all the Israeli teenagers who flock to the mall to show off their costumes on Purim... I didn't see any Queen Esther or Uncle Mordechai, but I did see sexy nurse, sexy honey bee, sexy soccer player, and even (this was the most bizarre) sexy santa. :) Ah well. I think some of that is halloween's influence seeping back into Purim. I posted a picture on my blog-- http://howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com/2009/03/lesson-14-happy-purim-now-go-to-mall.html (http://howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com/2009/03/lesson-14-happy-purim-now-go-to-mall.html)

Then there was the community parade featuring kids from local elementary schools dressed up as traffic signals. That was interesting.

I love Purim, though!

That's because you're talking about Israelis. Ironically, they are probably the most secular Jews in the world for the most part.

mayamolly
08-03-2009, 01:36 PM
The story of Esther serves to show us what G-d's presence is like in a world where Jews are trying to assimilate and nearly all thought of our Forefathers and the Land of Israel are gone.


I completely agree, and this is what I find so fascinating about this book. Without going too far (and pressing modern issues on this ancient book), the Jews at the time were struggling with many of the same issues we face today. The Jews' danger within the Persian empire (at least until Haman came along) was that it was SO open to them; it was tempting to assimilate fully and lose what it meant to be Jewish.

The Book of Daniel offers such a striking contrast to the Book of Esther, even though the two stories take place in the same city less than 200 years apart. Daniel refused to eat treyf and risked death multiple times because he had absolute confidence that G-d would save him. It's unlikely that Esther could have refused unkosher food, however, and she fears walking before the King-- let alone going into a lions' den or fiery furnace. She lives in a world where G-d's presence seems to have withdrawn, and humans are forced to enact their own miracles. G-d's plan is clearly at work, but it must have seemed very unclear to the Jews at the time.

Oh the other hand, there certainly were very devout Jews in Shushan at the time, so I've read some historical accounts that feel the secularity of the Book of Esther is artificial-- when you read Ezra and Nehemiah (both from Shushan around the time of Esther) you see the strong movement of devout Jews. Then you read the list of foreign wives that Ezra insisted be cast out from the group of Jews who chose to return to Judah, and you see the extent of the assimilation that Ezra fought against.

My protagonist will be a Jewish girl who is taken as Vashti's servant at a young age, and who comes to feel more loyal to Vashti than to the Jewish people-- leading to a personal struggle when she learns of Esther's identity and Haman's plan. I might even use the midrashic stories of how Vashti forced Jewish women to dance naked on Shabbat. These were supposed to demonstrate Vashti's cruelty, but perhaps this girl would have done so willingly as she grew further from her roots. I'm still in the planning/researching stages, though, and I'd love to discuss this story more with you!

Btw, here's Shushan (known as Susa or Shush) today-- that's the tomb of Daniel (a Muslim shrine) in the foreground!

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/85/239238755_3e1eeceabb_o.jpg

~Maya

mayamolly
08-03-2009, 01:49 PM
Btw, do any of you have theories about why Mordechai didn't bow down before Haman? Here are a few I've read or come up with:

1. Ancient grudge-- Haman was a descendant of Agag (hence "Haman the Agagite"), king of the Amalekites, and thus was part of the Amalekite tradition of brutal Antisemitism. Mordechai, on the other hand, was a descendant of King Saul (son of Kish), who defeated Agag. I don't really buy that this would be a powerful enough reason for Mordechai to do something so radical. especially since Mordechai clearly knew how to play the political game. (He didn't just SIT at Shushan's gate-- he worked there. He was a powerful bureaucrat.)

2. Haman had an image of an idol on his chest, so by bowing down before Haman, Mordechai would be bowing down before an idol. If this were the reason, why wouldn't the story just say so? Also, Mordechai was very clever, so he probably could have avoided this confrontation-- say, by not being around when Haman goes past. Mordechai seems deliberately provocative to me.

3. Personal grudge-- for one thing, Haman was promoted to royal vizier in place of Mordechai, when Mordechai was the one who revealed the plot against the king and should have been promoted. Maybe Mordechai was trying to personally provoke Haman and it got out of hand. Still doesn't make too much sense, though. For one thing, why then would others have told Haman that Mordechai refused to bow because he was JEWSIH?

4. Haman's reputation preceded him-- Haman clearly was a man of immense wealth and power, and one of the best ways to gather this power was by serving as a Satrap, a ruler of one of the regions of Persia. Satraps were supposed to gather a certain amount of taxes to pass on to the King, and then they could keep excess taxes for themselves. For Haman to gain so much power, he would have been a brutal Satrap indeed. Possibly he even personally tormented the Jews under his rule-- maybe Esther's parents died at his hand, for example. This is my personal favorite. From a literary perspective, it creates an interest backstory, and it means that Mordechai for once took an ethical stand. Until this point, everything he has done seems to be purely self-interest. However, I could imagine Mordechai refusing to bow before a man of such cruelty, cost what it might.

I'm open to suggestions, though. Any thoughts? I'm also still confused about the second day of fighting inside Shushan, so any enlightenment there would also help.

mayamolly
08-03-2009, 01:59 PM
That's because you're talking about Israelis. Ironically, they are probably the most secular Jews in the world for the most part.

That's what I thought before aliyah, but I don't think so anymore. To be a "secular Jew" in Israel means something very different from a secular Jew in the US. A secular Jew here might dress as a sexy ladybug on Purim, but she certainly knows what Purim stands for and looks forward to Mishloach Manot, candy, and maybe even a megilla reading. I grew up as a secular Jew in the US and for the longest time had no idea there were Jewish holidays other than Chanukah and Passover... Secular Jews here, on the other hand, have studied the Torah and celebrate almost all the holidays, albeit more culturally than religiously. I taught Hebrew school in the US to kids who didn't know what Shavuot was because it happened during the summer when they weren't going to Hebrew school, and they never learned about Jewish holidays at home. Here, on the other hand, cream cheese goes on sale in early June and the stores still run out because everyone's at home preparing dairy meals (or, if they're in Tel Aviv, running around all night in white clothing going to concerts and lectures! Secular, but still celebrating the holiday). And don't forget all the casual references to Judaism in Israeli speech-- i.e., Sunday is known as the "First Day" (Yom Rishon), Monday as the second, etc. Kids on the street call each other "Ben Adam," son of Adam. I saw a gym membership ad that was parodying the four sons (wise, wicked, innocent, and the one who doesn't know how to ask). It might be a bad thing that Judaism is commercialized and made part of ordinary life in Israel, but I do feel very connected to Judiasm and Jewish culture here-- I think a secular Israeli is far LESS secular than most American Jews, despite our bad reputation. :)

Judaism in Israel definitely has its issues... but that's a whole other thread, and I think I'm WAY over my quota for the day already.

semilargeintestine
08-04-2009, 01:11 AM
That's what I thought before aliyah, but I don't think so anymore. To be a "secular Jew" in Israel means something very different from a secular Jew in the US. A secular Jew here might dress as a sexy ladybug on Purim, but she certainly knows what Purim stands for and looks forward to Mishloach Manot, candy, and maybe even a megilla reading. I grew up as a secular Jew in the US and for the longest time had no idea there were Jewish holidays other than Chanukah and Passover... Secular Jews here, on the other hand, have studied the Torah and celebrate almost all the holidays, albeit more culturally than religiously. I taught Hebrew school in the US to kids who didn't know what Shavuot was because it happened during the summer when they weren't going to Hebrew school, and they never learned about Jewish holidays at home. Here, on the other hand, cream cheese goes on sale in early June and the stores still run out because everyone's at home preparing dairy meals (or, if they're in Tel Aviv, running around all night in white clothing going to concerts and lectures! Secular, but still celebrating the holiday). And don't forget all the casual references to Judaism in Israeli speech-- i.e., Sunday is known as the "First Day" (Yom Rishon), Monday as the second, etc. Kids on the street call each other "Ben Adam," son of Adam. I saw a gym membership ad that was parodying the four sons (wise, wicked, innocent, and the one who doesn't know how to ask). It might be a bad thing that Judaism is commercialized and made part of ordinary life in Israel, but I do feel very connected to Judiasm and Jewish culture here-- I think a secular Israeli is far LESS secular than most American Jews, despite our bad reputation. :)

Judaism in Israel definitely has its issues... but that's a whole other thread, and I think I'm WAY over my quota for the day already.

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that Israelis have no knowledge of religious Judaism. I just meant that they aren't on average religious. Your second to last statement is spot on though. Secular Israelis are far more religious than secular American Jews. I love Israelis by the way. :)

Where do you live? I will be in Yerushalayim at the end of the month for 2 weeks.

mayamolly
08-04-2009, 02:58 PM
I live in the Krayot, just north of Haifa. Will you make it up north? If so, come visit! I love Israelis too... and I love Chabadnikim. My husband and I met at a Chabad house, and our Chabad rabbi officiated at our wedding. :)

semilargeintestine
08-05-2009, 12:57 AM
מזל טוב!

בע''ה I will be up north to Tzfat for a Shabbos. I'd love to visit if I have the chance.