Spiritual Life: We can learn the lessons of Purim

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 March 2019


Thursday, March 21 was not only the spring equinox but it is also the joyous Jewish festival of Purim.

Our children went to school in brightly-coloured fancy dress; there are songs and plays and special sweet pastries.

Grown-ups went to their synagogues to hear the public reading of the Biblical story behind the festival, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

This book tells of a large community of Jews living in exile, as a minority in the heart of the great Persian Empire, some time around the 3rd or 4th centuries BCE. A new prime minister came to power, who hated Jews and spread malicious falsehoods against them. The wicked PM persuaded the foolish and capricious king to rid Persia of all its Jews. Eventually, after a complex palace intrigue, it is revealed to the king that his favourite wife, Esther, is Jewish, so by carrying out his decree, he would be murdering his own queen.

All ends happily. At the very last moment, God saves the people from destruction at the hands of the evil PM.

Yet on countless occasions since, small and vulnerable Jewish communities have been threatened with expulsion or massacre in both the Christian and Muslim worlds.

Only the other Friday, we saw the well-planned slaughter of over 50 Muslim worshippers in their mosques in New Zealand. Poisonous and irrational hatred, the desire for revenge against religious minorities, is still very much part of our modern world. As Jews celebrate their Purim, may we all work towards building a world where everybody will be free to worship in their own way, in security and without fear.

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