Purim is found in the book of Esther as the festival of lots and is the only book in the Tenakh where the name of G-d is not found. Purim has always been a controversial festival among the Jewish people. According to Talmud, it is at this time alone that Ashkenazi Jews can give themselves the extra freedom of getting drunk to the point of no longer being able to distinguish between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai yet at the same time being careful not to break the commandments. I mention Ashkenazi since in North America, Ashkenazi Judaism has been universalized where for the most part, the richness of the diverse cultures of Jews has been lost. Let it be noted that not all Jews eat hamentashen or get drunk at Purim.
A Purim Message
Another custom to be aware of is the wearing of costumes. To me this sends out a subliminal message that we as Jews have the desire to lose our own identity and blend into the gentile world. Biblically, Purim sends a very important message to Jews in Diaspora—a cry for survival and a NO to assimilation. The Hamans of this world are alive today with an innate anti-Semitism but the worst of the spirit of Haman shows itself in the destruction of our people through total assimilation. For this reason, I believe that celebrating this minor festival is extremely important for Messianic Jews; not only to identify with our community but to demonstrate that we are not ashamed to let the world know that we are Jews.
Assimilation has taken many forms and paths in its expression by the religions of the world; especially the Christianity of the western hemisphere where it has been enthroned and plays a very important role as a spiritual Haman in its attempt to destroy Israel through religious and cultural assimilation. For that reason, when we as Messianic Jews participate in our congregations on Purim, we must make sure that our customs are Biblical and emphasize the fact that we have not converted to another religion but have simply done t’shuva—returned to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Messiah Yeshua.
My Drash of Purim’s message would be that the Mordechai’s of today are the many Jewish believers involved within the Christian community who are trying to forge better relationships between Christians and Jews. Achashverosh represents the Christian leaders who believe that the Jewish people deserve to have their own identity and don’t need to be assimilated. The Hamans are the Christian groups who believe that the church has replaced Israel and there is no reason for the existence of the Jews today. As you can see, this story has been repeated in the history of the Jews time and time again wherever we have been scattered in the Diaspora.
Haman’s declaration to Achashverosh “there is a certain unassimilated nation scattered among the other nations…” (Esther 3:18) shows us that indeed we did not assimilate in the Diaspora and Mordechai’s reply to Esther in chapter 4 verse 14 shows God’s plan to preserve Israel is eternal. On that note, as a good Sephardic Jew, I will be eating a little bit of bacalao and finish with my baklava to celebrate this special festival. Chag Sameach!