The literal meaning of the word Purim is “lots”. It is derived from the story about the lots Haman cast in order to determine the day in which the Jews throughout the Persian empire would be massacred.
The Jewish world will celebrate the feast of Purim this year on February 28 (which will be the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar). It commemorates our salvation from that massacre schemed by Haman – the second in command to king Xerxes, in the year 357 BC. The story is described in the book of Esther. But though it tells of the miracles performed by God, it is the only book in the Bible in which neither the name of God, nor the land of Israel are mentioned – not even once. The name of the book in itself – “Esther” – is a hint to the “hiddeness” of God in it.
This is not something insignificant or random. The hiding of God’s Face is, in fact, the essence of the book. For example: Esther was the chosen queen, but the nature of her relationship with the king attests to alienation and estrangement. She is afraid to approach him, she beats around the bush until she gets to the point, and she is very insecure around him. And despite their official relationship, she is in no hurry to reveal her true identity to him.
So much like Israel’s relationship with God (well, maybe like the relationship of all of us with Him). We are also reluctant to approach Him (providing we believe He even exists). And we feel very insecure around Him, not sure if our many works earned us the right to be accepted and for our wishes to be granted. We even think we need to fast and recruit much support in prayer, in order to deserve any level of intimacy with Him.
I find it so interesting that Purim, out of all the Jewish feasts, is the only one we are specifically commanded to keep throughout every generation. It is said:
“These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city… these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews and… the memory of them should not perish among their descendants” (Est. 9:28).
Why is that? Perhaps because all of the other feasts commemorate something that has already happened in the history of Israel, whereas Purim implies the complete redemption for which we are still waiting, redemption by the hand of God whose identity, and even name, are hidden from our eyes. Even the rabbis understood this truth and so said:
“In the future, all of the feats will be nullified… but the days of Purim will never be nullified” (Yalkut Shimoni, Proverbs, Remez 944).
Want to know more about why God is hiding His Face from us? Click here “His Faces” – new book now available
On March 1st I will hold a Purim party for the holocaust survivors we are blessed to work with. This will be the first time they agreed to come to our local congregation, and I am truly hoping and praying this will leave them wanting more. A Dutch couple who are dear friends of ours, will share with them about their work at the Corrie ten Boom Museum, and in restoring Jewish cemeteries throughout Europe over the years.
How can you pray for this event? First, that none of them will be reluctant to come because of the location; that God will begin to reveal Himself to these people from whom His face has been hidden all these years, and that their hearts will melt as they will hear the stories and be exposed to His love.
Three days after this party, on March 4, I will participate in another event that I would love to recruit prayer for. But this will have to wait for another post…