Sabbaths, Feasts, and More
Marking Jewish Themes with Devotion
Jewish people around the world commemorate Purim annually on the 14th day of Adar on the Hebrew calendar, and this holiday will fall on our calendar this year on March 11th. According to tradition, celebrations will commence the evening of the 10th.
The Scroll of Esther details the poignant yet ironic Purim story of rescue through an engaging tale of secrets and revelations. Hiddenness is a prevailing theme as evil plots and the redemptive plans of God come to light. Haman, an evil advisor of King Ahasuerus of Persia, cast lots to set a date when all the Jews of the kingdom would be killed. Mordecai discovered his plans and persuaded his adopted daughter, Queen Esther, to go before the king unannounced and plead for the lives of her people. Moved by the valiant Jewish queen’s plea, the mighty king nullified the edict, and the conspiracy was spoiled.
Jewish people around the world honor this day of deliverance with feasting, merriment, and celebration. The walled-city of Jerusalem celebrates Shushan Purim on the 15th day of the month because fighting continued through the 14th.
Read – The Scroll of Esther or the book of Esther
Hebrew Words – Purim is the plural Hebrew form of the word pur which means “lot.” The holiday is called “lots” or Purim referring to the historical account of Haman who cast lots to see which day the Jews would be killed in Persia. Ironically, this vile villain was killed instead of his enemy, Mordechai, when King Ahasuerus became aware of his evil plans.
Hester is the Hebrew word meaning “hidden.” Within that word, the root letters “s-t-r” are found and are the same root letters for the Hebrew proper name “Esther.” One of the core themes of Esther is hiddenness.
Hester Panim — Hebrew for the “hidden face of God.”
Megillat Ester is Hebrew for “Scroll of Esther.” Jewish people read this rich story of deliverance from the Scroll of Esther rather than the Book of Esther. Hidden within the word megillah is the Hebrew root “g-l-h” which means to reveal. An alternative meaning of Megillat Ester could be “The Revealing of the Hidden.”
Kol D’mamah Dakah — Hebrew for “still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12).
Devotional Thought – “And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of gentle stillness and a still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12 AMP).
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV).
The name of the Almighty does not appear in the Megillat Ester. The face of God is hidden (Hester Panim), and this is such irony considering the great peril of the storyline. The Jewish people faced complete annihilation of their nation by an evil enemy. And there is no mention of God in the historic text of this happening. Where was the Covenant Maker when the Jewish people were in real trouble?
Yet HaShem’s plan and presence are tangible. Behind the scenes, He chose and prepared a young Jewish woman and her uncle. The Lord filled their hearts with raw faith to be silent when it was appropriate, and courage to act when the time became critical. Although God is not center-stage or even named — -Esther and Mordechai carry the plot — yet they are not the champions of the story of great deliverance. God Himself rescues the Jewish nation. And rightly so, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made a covenant with them from the beginning, and never plans on breaking His promises (Genesis 12:1).
In the beautiful story of Esther, the Holy One was there all the time in the still small voice, during ordinary days, and through the actions of common folks. He was orchestrating and ever-mindful that the Chosen People remain the apple of His eye and that they have a call to be a light to the nations.
Today in current events the whole world, along with the Jewish people, may be shaking their fists at God and demanding, “Where are You?” Anti-Semitism is rising, economic stability is elusive, innocents are succumbing to brutal and unthinkable deaths, and no person seems able to escape the shaking. No face emerges as defender and rescuer.
As world citizens who are Jews and Gentiles alike — we share a common enemy. He may wear the mask of terrorism; but he is the same, old contender against God — Lucifer who fought to be equal with the Almighty. That adversary is not to be feared. Scripture admonishes: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NIV). It also reminds us that our true rivals are not flesh and blood, but the powers of this age (Ephesians 6:12).
In all this the Deliverer of Israel is ever-present, in the still small voice, in the “happenstance” occurrences of life, orchestrating victory (I Kings 19:12). We must find the clues of God for He is leaving a trail of His sweet presence in the midst of threat and upheaval. The Lord is pleading to be recognized and found (Isaiah 55:6). Not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), the Redeemer’s arm of salvation is not short nor His ear deaf toward you (Isaiah 59:1). God is actively providing a way of escape for those who are tuned into His clues.
Never has the story of Purim been so current and poignant as now. We take great hope in our lives as we live unto Him, although His face is unseen (Hester Panim) or masked and not recognizable. The Great Deliverer is working to bring salvation and eternal purpose in your life. You cannot see Him but find His clues. Yeshua is near. Remember victory is, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV).
Prayer – I thank you, Yeshua, that You are working behind the scenes for my good. That even when I cannot see Your face in my circumstances clearly, You are in charge and ordering my steps. I am so grateful that there is no place that I can hide from You, even when You seem hidden from me. Help me to recognize your presence in my circumstances and to hear your still, small voice orchestrating behind the scenes.
Purim Celebrations and Traditions – Purim is one of the most festive Jewish celebrations on the Hebrew calendar. Both children and adults dress in the masquerade to demonstrate the “unseen” presence of God in the story of Esther and throughout Jewish history. He is always in the background drawing people to Himself.
Often children put on a Purim play and recount the story with modern, humorous twists. When the Megillat Ester is read, noisemakers are sounded to blot out the name of Haman. Hamantaschen or Oznei-Haman is baked, a special poppy seed, sweet pastry. Families attend parties, parties, parties; and in Jerusalem they dress in costume and party for two days instead of one, remembering Shushan Purim.
Photo above: Spider Man makes a visit to the Western Wall to pray on Purim — or at least is photoshopped at the Kotel with praying rabbis. Haha. Maybe this is part of his success. He prayed at the wall!