Standing on the Right Side of History – Purim 2024

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By Sarah L., Staff Writer

This year Purim seems an especially timely holiday celebrating Israel’s victory over the audacious and avaricious plots of its enemies. However, Purim’s relevance today is deeper than it seems.

Thousands of years ago, God chose Israel to be a people set apart from the nations:

“And the LORD has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands.

He has declared that He will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations He has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as He promised.” (Deut. 26:18-19)

Challenging the Jewish people is in essence a challenge to God Himself, one which He will always answer; for this reason, not one of the many attempts to destroy the Jewish people has succeeded.

The book of Exodus tells one of the first stories of national hubris raised against the people of Israel. Despite representing the primary military empire of its day, the Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea while the people of Israel marched through on dry ground.

This was in order that “The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharoah, his chariots and his horsemen.” (Ex. 14:18) Forty years later, in the book of Joshua, the prostitute Rahab confirms the lasting power of the splitting of the Red Sea when she tells the spies that the Canaanites fear the people of Israel because of what their God did to the Egyptians.

Hundreds of years later, the Book of Esther, which is read twice throughout Purim in Jewish communities around the world, tells the story of Esther, the unlikely Jewish queen of the Persian Empire; of Mordechai, Esther’s uncle whose faith spurs Esther to courageous action; and of Haman, the archetypal enemy of the Jews, whose anger is sparked by Mordechai’s refusal to worship any other than the God of Israel. Ultimately, Haman’s plots to destroy the entire Jewish people scattered through the empire are foiled by Mordechai, Esther, and of course, divine coincidence.

Although God’s Name is not mentioned explicitly in the Book of Esther, His presence is apparent in the series of divine coincidences which lead Esther to be chosen as queen, Mordechai to overhear the plot of the cook and baker, the king’s request to see the book of records in the middle of the night and of course, his choice to extend his scepter to Esther when she enters the throne room unbidden. The Book of Esther is full of divine “coincidence.”

For thousands of years after Esther, the Jewish people faced persecution after persecution. Yet amazingly they were never destroyed. The might of Rome could not destroy them, nor religious persecution and inquisition under the Catholic Church. Even the gas chambers of Hitler were unable to extinguish this small and determined people. From the ashes of the Holocaust was reborn the State of Israel.

Throughout history, kingdoms have risen and fallen, conquered and been conquered. As borders changed, peoples have assimilated, intermarried and disappeared. Surprisingly, the stateless people of Israel never gave up their collective faith, language or memory of independence.

Although the story of the Exodus is the only one of those listed above where the God of Israel openly revealed His presence en masse, one would be a fool to ignore the series of fortunate “coincidences” which under countless threats ensured the survival of the Jewish people.

On October 7th, 2023, thousands of terrorists and armed civilians crossed from Gaza into Israel, intending to murder, steal, rape, kidnap and destroy. In the wake of the worst attack in Israeli history, Israel declared war on Hamas, the group responsible for the horrors perpetrated in southern Israel. Although many abroad were initially sympathetic towards Israel, support is now dwindling, and many have forgotten why Israel is fighting.

Purim comes at the right time this year to remind us that opposing Israel does not pay off. Taking a stance unilaterally critical of Israel today will backfire as surely as it did hundreds of years ago. Even when God’s hand is veiled it is always present. His victory will ultimately be revealed and His people be vindicated. Why? Because the survival and success of the Jewish people is the ultimate testimony of God’s power; His faithfulness to them is the ultimate testimony of His faithfulness to us all.

This is a message not only to Hamas, Hizballah and Iran, but also to all those who call to “free Palestine”, with or without understanding what they are saying.

For Israel itself and for those who support Israel, Purim is a time to take heart. For those who don't, it is a timely warning.

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