Dear Readers,

The Scroll of Esther begins its tale in the year 371 BCE with King Achashverosh throwing an extravagant party celebrating his third anniversary of his ascending the throne.

All citizens were invited to the lavish festivities, and no expense was spared. Golden goblets were brought out; no cup was used more than once, and no two goblets were alike. The holy vessels used in the priestly service of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), which had been looted and razed almost 70 years earlier by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnetzer, were also displayed and used.

King Achashverosh adorned himself in special robes woven from pure golden threads and the finest colors of linen fabrics. These garments had been worn by the Jewish High Priest in his services in the Beit Hamikdash.

Achashverosh dared to don these holy, priestly robes and use these holy utensils because this was, in fact, one of Achashverosh’s main reasons for the festivities. He had miscalculated the ominous prophecy of Jeremiah, promising the Jewish people’s return to Israel after a 70-year period of exile. Achashverosh was rejoicing that the Jewish people’s return to their land would never happen.

Mordechai warned the Jews not to participate in the feasts, but apprehensive of appearing ungrateful, few listened. Though the king served kosher food so they would not sin against any Torah law, by the holy nation attending these parties they were taking part in something fundamentally worse. They were effectively celebrating their separation from the Holy Land, from the Holy Temple and from their close relationship with G‑d. This was a terrible affront to G‑d.

How could such a profound wrongdoing be rectified? Only if the Jewish nation could somehow be able to reveal that nothing is more precious to them than their relationship with G‑d. They may have acted in a rash manner showing disgrace and disrespect, but in truth, nothing is as valuable to them as their connection to G‑d.

Unbeknown to Haman, when he decreed the annihilation of the Jews, he was unwittingly serving as a tool to reunite G‑d with His People.

For an entire year—from the time that his decree was publicized until it would take effect—the Jews lived in a constant state of fear and danger. Although they could have saved themselves by converting to the Persian religion, no one considered this means of escape. The Jews of Persia thus proved that maintaining a bond with G‑d was more valuable to them than life itself.

From the story of Purim, we learn:

Despite how we may be acting outwardly, at the deepest soul level, Jews feel that their connection to G‑d is more precious than anything, even life itself.

It also shows us G‑d’s love for us. What seems like a terrible decree or horrifying challenge may be a tool for helping us reach a deeper awareness and connection with Him.

Happy Purim! May all of our challenges be transformed into magnificent, overwhelming joy!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW