Once a year, we celebrate the holiday of costumes. For weeks in advance, everyone plans their special costumes, and many of us try to find either the funniest or most creative one. We give and receive candy with our friends. Sound familiar? Though this sounds just like Halloween, I’m actually talking about Purim!
Purim is one of the most beloved Jewish holidays for kids and even many adults. It’s a very fun, funny, and joyful celebration! As an Israeli, I got to enjoy a few days of vacation from school for Purim growing up. But the holiday is much more than this.
For most of the secular population, Purim is just about costumes, hamantaschen (“Haman’s ears [or hat],” triangular cookies with a sweet filling), and mishloach manot (baskets of food and drink we exchange with one another). Sure, we learn in school about the story of Esther, how God used this Jewish woman and her cousin, Mordecai, to thwart Haman’s evil plan to annihilate all the Jewish people. But I don’t know how much of it really sticks for most people. When the story is taught, God is out of the picture; and the main focus is the cultural event—the festivals, the food, and the costumes.
Now don’t get me wrong—I enjoy Purim! As a kid, I loved thinking about what to wear and what costume I should make. I loved the food baskets with all the candy. But as I grew up, I thought to myself, “There’s got to be more to Purim than this!”
I remember while learning the book of Esther at church, thinking to myself, Well, here’s another story of how bad people want to eliminate Israel, and that wouldn’t be the first time or the last. Why? We are such a small nation, such a small place. Why do so many people want Israel to be destroyed? How can so many people turn a blind eye to what is going on in Muslim countries and then point their finger at Israel?
The Lord delivered us because He did not forget His promises to us.
Without a biblical perspective, this type of nonsense can make a person go crazy! But when you realize that people are blind, and we are engaged in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10–13), it makes sense. It gives the Word of God more validity, because it shows that our enemies oppose us because of Israel’s special status in God’s eyes. Israel has been chosen (Zechariah 2:12) and blessed (Genesis 12:2) by God by His grace. As Haman rose up to destroy Israel in the book of Esther, and as other evil rulers have tried to do the same to the Jewish people throughout history, it is clear we would not have survived on our own. The Lord delivered us because He did not forget His promises to us.
Today I understand that the story of Purim is really about God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness to His people and His promises, even though His name is not mentioned even once in the book of Esther. But God is indeed the main character in the story, and He wants us to remember His goodness through this holiday. We are to love Him and love one another not just by exchanging candy with our friends but by giving to those who are in need—just as He commanded us to do (Leviticus 19:18; John 13:34–35).
I’m planning to continue enjoying Purim and dressing my kids in sweet little costumes, but it won’t be just to take part in another cultural event. We will celebrate God’s character and faithfulness to us on this special day. Chag Purim sameach (Happy Purim)!