The Heroes of Purim
At the end of the month, the Jewish people will be celebrating an event that took place about 2300 years ago in the kingdom of Persia – an event that was supposed to destroy our people, but ended up saving them instead. It is the story of how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. It is the story of how one person can make a difference. It is the story of how the miracles of life do not always reveal themselves in the splendour of thunder and lighting, but rather in the quietness of simple events that lead to unimaginable results.
It is the story of Purim – where the plans for genocide of the Jewish people were put in motion by Haman, only to be thwarted by Mordechai and Esther in a dramatic turnaround of events that saw Haman and the enemies of Israel being destroyed that day.
Haman, who was the king’s closest advisor, was insulted that Mordechai, a Jew, refused to bow down to him, so as a result he hated the Jews and wanted them destroyed. He plotted and schemed to get in motion a law that would destroy the Jewish people.
However, the king of Persia, Achashverosh, had recently chosen a new bride called Esther, who unknown to him and to Haman, was a Jew.
Esther, at great personal risk, worked with her uncle Mordechai to carefully and meticulously devise a plan that would save her people. She had to be careful, because approaching the king directly to change a law could have led to her death and consequently her people.
Eventually, as the king’s love for Esther grew, she revealed herself to him as a Jew. The king, shocked at the news that his wife was to be killed under Haman’s order, instead decreed that Haman be killed, thereby crushing his plans for the annihilation of the Jews.
Although there is more to the story, Esther, through a series of events, found herself in the right place at the right time to influence her king so that she was able to save her people.
There is much to learn from the story of Purim.
Esther is the quintessential example of someone we should all strive to be like, because she put her people above herself. The fate of the Jewish people lay with her, and rather than shirk the responsibility, she took it on.
And while Jews are individuals and free thinkers, we are also part of something so much greater than ourselves and when we talk of the Jewish people; it’s not just about those of us living today, but about those of us from days gone past and those of us in the days that lie ahead.
For Purim this year we celebrate Israeli heroes, and there is no greater example of that than the people of Israel themselves. Because despite the threats of neighbouring countries, despite the danger of terrorism, despite the continued international attempts to delegitimize the country , despite the constant attacks at our morality, at our core, at our humanity – the Jews continue to live there, embracing their land, embracing their values, continuing the mission of the Jewish people.
And there’s something about the Jewish story that never gets old. For us, the past is as relevant as the present and serves as a guide to the future. We don’t just remember out past… we learn from it, and we use its lessons to shape our destiny going forward.
As magnificent as it is to see those old dusty buildings from our ancient past, those are not the true monuments of our people.
Our monuments are living ones, and they exist in all of us, because the Jewish people of today carry that same spirit of the Jewish people of the past – a spirit that burns on despite the constant attacks and attempts to destroy it throughout history.
It is important that each of us remember that pride and that honour in being who we are. Just as Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman, neither should we Jews compromise our Jewish beliefs by bowing down to others.
We need to take pride in who we are, to constantly embrace it.
Within each of us lies the ability to save our world, just as Esther did, because true heroism means you fight for a cause greater than yourself.
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based columnist who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is a regular contributor to international publications, including the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel. Justin is also a valued Israel Forever writer, thoughtfully discussing his connection to the Jewish state. You can reach Justin on Twitter, Facebook & Google+.