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Masks of Purim

by Rav Richard Aharon' Chaimberlin





PURIM is perhaps the 'silliest' holiday on the Jewish calendar. It celebrates the victory of the Jews over their enemies over 2500 years ago. This is a common theme for other Jewish holidays as well: "They tried to kill us. They lost. Let's eat!"


An enemy seeks to enslave, destroy, or simply to assimilate the Jewish people as being a unique people. Ultimately, the Jews arise victorious. That is an important message to the enemies of the Jews of today. When the Jews arise victorious again, there will be another Jewish holiday to celebrate! And all of these victories are with incredible odds against the Jewish people. No sane person expects the Jews to win, but we did, and we will again!


With the holiday of Purim, the situation against the Jews was very drastic. The enemy wasn't seeking to assimilate them or to destroy the Jewish religion, as was the situation when Antiochus Epiphanies sought to keep Jews from observing their faith. The enemy wasn't seeking to continue enslaving the Jews, as was the case with the Israelites in Egypt. No... Instead, the goal of Haman and his cohorts was the complete physical annihilation of the Jewish people - every man, woman, and child.


You can read all about Purim in the Book of Esther. Martin Luther hated this book, and almost excluded it from his German translation of the Bible. Martin Luther (the founder of the "Protestant Reformation") was a rabid anti-Semite, and no doubt did not like seeing the Jews victorious over their enemies. The good news is that he ultimately did include it in his German translation, and it is still found in both Catholic and Protestant Bibles to this day, and of course is also in Jewish Bibles.


The Jews were wearing masks...

The Book of Esther describes a situation in which the Jewish people had been highly assimilated into the Persian culture of their day. In a sense, the Jews were wearing masks, in an attempt to appear as Gentiles to those in the surrounding cultures. Sometimes it takes the enemies of the Jews to remind the Jews that they have a special calling to be a unique people, with unique responsibilities as God's missionary people, with a divine mission to bring forth the knowledge of Adonai, His salvation, and His Torah to all the people groups on Planet Earth. Instead, the Jews at that time chose to "pass" for being Gentiles.


God is figuratively masked...


This is the only book of the Tanakh (O.T.) in which the name of God (YHWH) is not mentioned even once. There is not even any mention of prayer in this book. There aren't any miracles of deliverance, as you can see in the Book of Exodus, with the supernatural plagues on the Egyptians, as well as the miraculous escape of the Israelites from Pharaoh's army. However, as you read through the Book of Esther, you can see God's fingerprints all over it. There is a series of "coincidences" taking place. Each one by itself is not a miracle in any true sense of the word. However, when you put all of the "coincidences" together, you can see HaShem working behind the scenes, using "natural" circumstances to accomplish His purposes, in what each appears to be a “lucky coincidence.”


Esther was masked...


King Ahasuerus ("Achashverosh" in the Hebrew Bible) put on a marvelous feast which all the citizens of Shushan (Susa) celebrated for many days, in the third year of his reign.[1] The royal wine was plentiful, according to the king's bounty. However, his Queen Vashti refused to display her beauty in front of this bunch of possibly drunken men. For this "indiscretion," King Achashverosh divorced her. Four years later, in the seventh year of his reign,[2] Achashverosh was lonely and sought a new bride by means of a beauty contest. The winner happened to be the beautiful, but highly assimilated Jewish maiden named Esther. Esther was an orphan, raised by her older cousin, Mordechai. He instructed Esther to keep her Hebrew name - Hadassah - a secret, and also not to reveal her Jewish ancestry. Esther was therefore also wearing a "mask," pretending to be a shikseh.[3] And we still wear masks today when we celebrate Purim!

Esther serves as queen for five years,[4] when she is confronted with the possibility of all her people - the Jews - being annihilated by the wicked Haman (May his name be blotted out). Haman was descended from the Amalekites, Israel's enemies from ancient times. The Amalekites attacked the Israelites after they came out of Egypt, by attacking those who were faint and weary in the rear.[5] Therefore, the Israelites were commanded to "blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag,[6] king of the Amalekites. As such, he had no love for the Jews.


All of the king's servants would bow to Haman, who served as the prime minister of the Persian Empire, which covered a huge area, all the way from India to Ethiopia. However, Mordechai refused to bow to an Amalekite, and as a special revenge against Mordechai, Haman determined to kill all of the Jews, who centuries earlier had killed most of the Amalekites.

Haman masked his true intent...


Haman went to the king, saying, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of the kingdom, and their laws are diverse from all people. Therefore, it is not in the king's interest to let them remain.” [7] Haman did not tell the king that these people were Jews. However, the king gave Haman the authority to destroy this people for their supposed evil.

Try to imagine all of these events, simply "happening" by chance:


  • King Achashverosh gets angry at his wife, sends her away, and later selects Esther (who just "happens" to be Jewish) as his new wife.

  • Morechai just "happens" to hear of a plot to kill King Achashverosh, which saves the king's life.

  • Years later, when the king can't sleep, he asks his scribe to read to him from the chronicles of the king.

  • The scribe just "happens" to open to the section chronicling the good deed of Mordechai, who had saved the king's life, but finds that Mordechai had not been rewarded.

  • Haman "happens" to enter the room at the very time the king is seeking a way to reward Mordechai.

  • Haman, thinking that the king wants to reward himself, ends up honoring Mordechai.

  • Esther uses her position to turn the tables on Haman, etc., etc.


All of the circumstances seem completely natural, but the odds of all of them together happening by happenstance mitigate against it. We see God working behind the scenes as the divine playwright. The Divine Hand is moving the people like chess pieces or puppets, being moved about and manipulated for a successful conclusion to what looks like a horrible and foreboding situation.


In the Passover story, divine salvation came from above, whereas in the Purim story, salvation comes from below, disguised as a series of ordinary events. The events in both the Passover and Purim stories ended up saving and preserving the Jewish people.


HaSatan hides behind a mask...(but we know his schemes)

HaSatan - the Adversary - has been seeking to destroy the Jewish people for thousands of years. Satan knows the Scriptures. He knew that the Messiah would come from the Jews. And he knows that Yeshua will return when the Jews return to their homeland. He tried to destroy the Jewish people in Egypt, and sought to kill Yeshua when He was a baby.[8] Through various pogroms[9] and through the Holocaust, Satan hoped to destroy the Jewish people, and to prevent their return to Israel.


He continues to work through anti-Semites today. If Satan had been successful, he would have proven God to be untrustworthy, and he would have ruined God's plans for the ultimate redemption of mankind, which also includes the future Messianic Kingdom in which King Messiah Yeshua will come back to reign and rule from Jerusalem!


But No Matter What Happens: God Saves His People Israel!

What is especially incredible is that HaShem even uses human weaknesses, such as the desire "to be like everyone else," to bring about a happy ending. Today, as in ancient Persia, Jews are seeking to assimilate into the cultures in which they reside. Even in Israel, we see Jews trying to emulate American culture.


However, Israel has a higher calling. Messiah is returning to set up His Messianic Kingdom, and it will come to pass, as Micah wrote:


"In the last days, it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of YHWH shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say,

'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of YHWH,

and to the house of the God of Jacob;

and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.'

For the Torah (Law or Teaching) shall go forth from Zion, and the word

of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many people,

and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords

into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not

lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore."

(Micah 4:2-4)

May it be soon, even in our lifetime!


[1] Esther 1:3.

[2] Esther 2:16.

[3] A young Gentile woman.

[4] Esther 3:7.

[5] D'varim (Deut.) 25:17-19.

[6] 1 Samuel 15:3,9.

[7] Curiously, similar charges against the Jewish people have been used ever since then!

[8] Matthew 2:8-18.

[9] Orchestrated violent riots against the Jews.

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