This month we celebrate Purim, which marks the miraculous salvation of the Jews during the Persian Empire. It was at a crucial time in Jewish history. Seven decades earlier, in 586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzer, the Babylonian King, destroyed the Temple and Jewish sovereignty and exiled the Jews. Their situation was tenuous, almost all lived under the vast empire of King Ahashuerus. The threat to kill the Jews was unlike any other in Jewish history. Jews had nowhere to run. If the plot succeeded, it would mean the end of the Jewish people.
We celebrate Purim with the reading of the Megillah, giving charity to the poor, giving gifts to our friends and having a celebratory Purim meal during the afternoon. It’s a holiday of great joy and exuberance.
Much more lingers under the surface. The story is replete with meaning and lessons for our lives even today. At its core is the unique Divine destiny that intervenes time and again to ensure Jewish survival. Today the ancient empires that oppressed us, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, Assyria and Egypt, exist in the archeological ruins of the past and in museums. This struck home a few years ago when I visited the British Museum. There I saw the giant stone reliefs of the Assyrian Empire. They showed the attack in 701 BCE by Senacherib against the Jewish city of Lakshish in Israel. Today the Assyrians are just an historical memory. A few yards from the ancient ruins of Lakshish is a flourishing Jewish town.
Jews have not survived through he ages because of their military might, or because we won a larger number of Nobel Prizes. It’s part of a Divine plan unveiled at Mount Sinai. Jews were entrusted with a unique mission to share the concept of monotheism with world. To insure the success of this mission time and again, we have been saved from disaster and destruction. Our job is not to convert the world, but to serve as a role model of a nation whose value system is not rooted in the changing mores of society, but a spiritual mandate entrusted to us at Mount Sinai and transferred down through the ages.
Each one of us has a unique Divine mission. It is embedded in mystery. When Mordecai, the Jewish leader, confronted Esther the queen to intervene to save the Jews, she was afraid. He told her this was her mission, the reason she reached the palace. Each one of us has such a mission, an opportunity to change the world, or community or our families for the better. Every day we are presented with a choice to make a difference. Esther mustered the courage to confront the king and saved the Jews. All we have to do is to dig a big deeper and find the inner strength to meet the challenges in our lives.
Rabbi David Eliezrie is rabbi at Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen-Chabad. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org