The festival of Purim takes place tonight. Our road will be closed for the carnival and the biblical book of Esther will be read all over the world tonight and tomorrow morning. In some places, especially in Israel, the festival is extended until Friday.
Everywhere, people dress up and make a loud noise (preferably with a rattle) every time the name of the wicked chief minister, ‘Haman’, is pronounced during the reading of the ‘scroll of Esther’, known as the Megillah. During Purim people also get drunk, stop cars, demand money for charity and generally behave differently from normal.
Why is the story of Purim, featuring Queen Esther, so important to Jews all over the world? The story depicts the first attempted genocide of the Jews in Jewish history, which took place in Persia. It is a typical story of diaspora. It is also the only biblical book in which G-d’s name is missing.
Why is G-d’s name missing from this one biblical book? Surely the book of Esther describes how G-d saved the Jewish people from certain destruction at the hands of the wicked chief minister, Haman, and his master Ahasuerus (usually considered to be the Persian monarch, Xerxes). So why doesn’t G-d get a mention?
What the story is telling us is that G-d can be there in absentia, while human beings wrestle with doing the right thing.
Queen Esther was just a simple Jewish girl who was instructed by her uncle Mordechai to save her people from certain death by marrying the enemy, King Ahasuerus. The story is both convoluted and complex, but involves a beauty parade, a harem, feasting, drinking, resourcefulness and cunning.