Purim, for those that do not know, is graphically rich, filled with characters of all types and levels and written up in a movie script of a plot that occurred over 2,400 years ago. This year it falls on Sunday. Normally the fast is the day before but since we don't fast on Shabbat or the day before it, the fast ends up being on Thursday, as it is this year.
The story has Villains, Heroes, Kings and Queens, Women of Leadership, Harems, 6 month log parties and the Gallow's Poles..in short it's an excellent adventure which only partially explains the joy it brings to everyone.
Every child, even my 3 year old, can tell you the basic story and we remember it forever.
So if you don't know the story, here is my 30 second pitch:
King Achashveros has Queen Vashti, kills her, needs new one, finds one that is Jewish named Hadassah but she is called Esther, takes her to the palace. King's right hand man, Haman gets into an argument with Mordechai, Jewish and Esther's Uncle and also a King adviser. Haman gets mad, decides to kill the Jews after discussing with his wife. Convinces the King to listen to him. Mordechai and Esther create a plan to stop the action which involves every one in Shushan to fast and pray for 3 days before Esther tries to convince the King to rescind the order. Naturally she does, Haman is thwarted and hung, along with his 10 sons on a set of Gallow's Poles. Mordechai becomes the King's right hand man and all is good again.One thing to know, you will not find God's name anywhere in the Book of Purim.
Coupled with the holiday are a handful of requirements that everyone must fulfill on THE day of Purim.
1)Matanot L'evyonim - Gifts to the poor(donations of money, food)
2)Mishloach Manot - Sending of a Gift to a friend (Usually 2 different types of food items that require different blessings.
3) Listening to the Megillah being read - We read it twice, once in the evening then once the next morning.
4) Purim Seudah - The Feast, what you expected a Jewish holiday without food?
So we fast and pray and ask that God protect us from the evil that people can perpetuate against each other. While Haman was from the tribal clan of Amalek, the Rabbis over the years took that any group that tries to destroy the Jewish people is from Amalek.
This Shabbat, we read a section of the Torah that every Jew must here, known as Parshat Zachor, it is a short, 8 lines, from Exodus 17:8-16 that reminds everyone of the cowardly ways evil can work, namely by attacking women and children first.
Before you leave this post and think it is all historical, last Friday night, as Shabbat had started, a terrible tragedy occurred in a town called Itamar in Israel. A family of 8 lost their parents and 3 siblings(ages 11, 3 and 3 months) because someone came into their home, slit their throats and stab them repeatedly (the link contains graphic pictures) because they were Jews.
It is said in the Talmud Shavuot 39a: Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba zeh. “All Israel is responsible each for the other." With that in mind, our synagogue, will have a memorial service for the Fogel family tonight.