Purim: You Won’t Believe What This Story is Really About

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Once upon a time, there lived a Persian king, whose name was too difficult to pronounce. His wife, Queen Vashti, disobeyed him, so he divorced her and had a beauty pageant to choose the next queen. Mordechai sent Esther to the contest; she defeated all the other beauties and became the new queen, but she did not mention that she was Jewish.

At around that time there was a very bad man with a very easy name to pronounce—Haman. He was the king’s prime minister, and he could talk the king into almost anything. Haman had a special quirk: he could not stand Jews.

One day, he went to the king and told him: “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the peoples.” Haman explained to the king that he’d be better off without them because they don’t keep his laws; the king agreed and gave him the go-ahead to kill them all.

When Mordechai heard this, he was shocked. He started yelling about it all over town, all the way to the king’s gate. He told Esther about the plan to kill the Jews, and that she must go and beg the king to undo it.

Esther was frightened because she didn’t think the king would agree to her request, but she finally agreed. She had one condition – that the Jews would gather and unite in thought of her success. “Then,” she said, “although it’s against protocol for me to approach the king, I will do it, and hope for a miracle.”

The rest is history: A miracle happened, the king greeted Esther warmly and accepted her request. She told him she was Jewish, that Haman was planning to kill all of them, and the king got so upset that he hung Haman and his family on the same tree he had prepared for Mordechai. Since then we’ve been told to be merry on that day, eat lots of pastries called hamantashen (Haman’s ears), and get so sloshed that we can’t tell right (Mordechai) from wrong (Haman).

Besides being a lot of fun, Purim also has a very important message for us, especially now when anti-Jewish feelings are intensifying all over the world: The only “weapon” that we have against our enemies is unity. As we were saved then by uniting in thought of Esther’s success, now we can and should protect ourselves and our loved ones by uniting.

These days there are plenty of Hamans around us. They are reminders that we need to unite just as the Jews did back in Persia, and that if we do, no harm will come to us.

The Book of Zohar writes (portion, Aharei Mot) that through our unity we can help the world find peace. The world blames us for causing all the wars, although we clearly have no such intention. So if we show them our unity, and that we want to share this unity with them, it will serve as an example of brotherly love that no other nation can perform.

All other nations can unite only against a common enemy. We are the only nation in history that has ever united for the sake of unity itself. Today, this is what the world needs—unity for the sake of unity.

Our sages explain that Haman is a symbol of our evil inclination, our own hatred of others. The Haman within us stops us from caring for others, and also causes the world to blame us for their wars. In previous generations, Jews practiced “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is up to us to revive these feelings within us and overcome our inner Hamans. When we do so, the world will see the real value of Judaism—truly caring for all people; a perception of humanity as one soul, one entity that when united, achieves unimaginable bliss.

The nations’ anti-Semitism forces us to unite, but only in order to escape the trouble. We need to learn to unite because unity brings joy, strength, and prosperity to all. When we come to that, there will be no hatred whatsoever: no anti-Semitism, no wars, and no ill-will among people

Happy Purim to all!

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