|Esther Enters to See the King in the Movie One Night With the King|
Hello My Friend and Welcome.
We take a short pause in our Lenten/Easter Posts to look at another of the Jewish Feasts and Festivals, Purim. This celebration always begins on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Adar…which comes in late winter or early spring. This year, Purim begins at sundown Wednesday, March 7th , and lasts until sundown on March 8th — Purim Day.
THE BOOK OF ESTHER
The word Purim means lots and refers to the lottery Haman used to choose the date for the massacre of the Jews. Purim is preceded by a short fast as a memorial to Esther’s fast before she approached the king. Each year, the entire Megillah, as the book of Esther is known, is read in the synagogue on this day.
The heroes of the story are Hadassah (Esther), a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her older cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. However, King Ahasuerus fell in love with Esther and made her his queen not knowing that she was a Jew. At Mordecai’s urging she speaks to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, saving them from annihilation.
Hadassah’s story has been told and re-told in books and movies including the 2006 release, One Night with the King, starring Tiffany DuPont, Luke Goss, John Noble, and Omar Sharif. The picture at the top of this post is from that movie. Big Idea Productions also produced a Veggie Tales version called Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen.
The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name of God. In fact, it includes virtually no reference to God. Mordecai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that is the closest the book comes to mentioning God. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that God often works in ways that are not apparent and appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.
CELEBRATING WITH HAMENTASCHEN
Purim is a day of festivity, frivolity and celebration. It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations, perform plays and parodies, and hold beauty contests. Traditional Purim treats are triangular fruit-filled cookies. Known as hamentaschen, they are supposed to represent Haman's three-cornered hat. They are available in most Jewish delicatessens. If you’d like to try making them at home, here’s a recipe:
Ingredients: 2/3 C butter or margarine, 1/2 C sugar, 1 egg, 1/4 C orange juice (pulp free, not pulpy), 1 C white flour, 1 C whole wheat flour (DO NOT substitute white flour. The whole wheat flour is necessary to achieve the right texture.), 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon.
Various preserves, fruit butters and/or pie fillings.
Process: Cream butter and sugar together, add egg and blend thoroughly. Blend in orange juice. Combine the baking powder and cinnamon with the white flour. Add flour a ½ cup at a time, alternating white and wheat, blending thoroughly between each. Refrigerate batter overnight or at least a few hours. Roll as thin as you can without getting holes in the batter (roll it between two sheets of wax paper lightly dusted with flour for best results). Cut out 3 or 4 inch circles.
Put a dollop of filling in the middle of each circle. Divide the circle into three equal parts and fold in the three sides to make a triangle, folding the last corner under the starting point, so that each side ends up with a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under (see picture above). Folding in this "pinwheel" style will reduce the likelihood that the last side will fall open while cooking, allowing filling to spill out. It also tends to make a better triangular shape.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown but before the filling boils over.
Traditional fillings are poppy seed and prune, but apricot works well. Apple butter, pineapple preserves, and cherry pie filling also work quite well. The number of cookies this recipe makes depends on the size of your cutting tool and the thickness you roll. A 4-1/4 inch cutting tool and rolling to a medium thickness, yields 20-24 cookies.
MODERN ECHOES OF PURIM
In the time of the Book of Esther, Haman tried to destroy the Jews. In modern times, there have been two significant figures who have threatened the Jewish people, and there are echoes of Purim in their stories.
Many have noted the echoes of Purim in the Nuremberg war crime trials. In the Book of Esther, Haman's ten sons were all hanged (Esther 9:13). In 1946, ten of Hitler's top associates were put to death by hanging for their war crimes, including the crime of murdering 6 million Jews. An 11th defendant, Hermann Göring, committed suicide the night before the execution, a parallel to the suicide of Haman's daughter recorded in the Talmud. Göring was rumored to be a transvestite, which makes the parallel even more accurate. One of the defendants seems to have been aware of this. On his way to the gallows, Julius Streicher shouted “Purim Fest 1946.”
Another echo of Purim is found in the Soviet Union a few years later. In early 1953, Stalin was planning to deport most of the Jews in the Soviet Union to Siberia, but just before his plans came to fruition, he suffered a stroke and died a few days later. He suffered that stroke on the night of March 1, 1953…the night after Purim. However, because Jewish days end at sunset, calendars that year marked March 1st as Purim. Stalin’s plan to deport Jews was never carried out.
A story is told of that 1953 Purim. The Lubavitcher Rabbi led a Purim gathering and was asked to give a blessing for the Jews of the Soviet Union, who were known to be in great danger. Instead, he told a cryptic story about a man who was voting in the Soviet Union and heard people cheering for the candidate, saying, Hoorah! Hoorah! The man did not want to cheer, but was afraid to not cheer, so he said hoorah, but in his heart, he meant it in Hebrew— hu ra, which means, “he is evil.” The crowd at the 1953 gathering began chanting “hu ra!” regarding Stalin, and that night, Stalin suffered the stroke that led to his death a few days later.
Next Monday we’ll examine the English word Easter.
Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings.
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