Purim: Transforming Defeat into Triumph

As we approach the Jewish holiday of Purim this Sunday, it’s an excellent time to delve into its profound significance.

Purim’s Intricate Tale of Survival

Purim commemorates the extraordinary redemption of the Jewish people. At its heart lies the captivating narrative of Esther, chronicled in the eponymous scroll. This scroll weaves a tapestry of intrigue and twists of fate, portraying the Jewish community’s salvation from the perilous decree engineered by the infamous Haman.

For children, Purim is a joyous occasion with the opportunity to don costumes and revel in lively festivities. Even adults partake in the merriment, following the tradition “to drink till one cannot discern the difference between the wicked Haman and the righteous Mordechai.” Dubbed the “holiday of reversals,” Purim invites contemplation on the shifting paradigms of good and evil.

The story of Purim takes place in 369 BCE during the reign of King Ahashverosh over the Persian Empire. The narrative recounts the struggles of the Jewish people under his rule, who were oppressed by Haman, the Chief Courtier. Haman bore a grudge against Mordechai when he refused to bow down to him. Instead of punishing Mordechai alone, Haman planned to exterminate all Jews and seize their property across the 127 provinces. However, Queen Esther, Mordechai, and the Jewish community joined forces and approached the King, leading to Haman’s downfall and Mordechai’s rise to power. The deadly decree was reversed, giving Jews the right to defend themselves on the appointed day.

Each year, women play a central role in commemorating this miraculous tale by reading the Megillah in synagogues.

Esther’s Story in the Modern World

When examining Esther’s story from a contemporary perspective, not many resources provide the same depth and insight as Yoram Hazony’s “God and Politics in Esther.” Hazony’s analysis goes beyond the story’s surface, delving deep into its themes to reveal a powerful narrative of political maneuvering and power dynamics that remains relevant today.

At the heart of Hazony’s analysis lies the complex character of Haman, whose fixation on Mordecai’s perceived defiance sets in motion a chain of events that threaten the very existence of the Jewish people. Hazony meticulously dissects Haman’s psyche, illustrating how his obsession drives him to not only seek vengeance against Mordecai but also to orchestrate a genocidal decree aimed at eradicating an entire community.

While the decree casts a daunting shadow over the Jewish people, the story takes a dramatic turn with Haman’s downfall and Mordecai’s rise to power. Through strategic maneuvers, including issuing counter-decrees granting Jews the right to defend themselves, Esther and Mordecai navigate the treacherous political intrigue to secure their people’s survival.

As the appointed day of reckoning arrives, Jews throughout the empire stand firm in defence of their lives and livelihoods. The Megillah meticulously recounts the ensuing clashes, underscoring the resilience and determination of a people fighting for their existence.

  1. Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.
  2. The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples…
  3. Now, the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives and got relief from their enemies and killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. (*1)

Hazony’s analysis also sheds light on the role of divine influence in the unfolding events despite the absence of explicit mention of G-d’s name in the Megillah. Through the deliberate choices of Mordecai and Esther, guided by a sense of duty and moral imperative, the narrative reflects a rabbinic belief in humanity’s role as stewards of creation, entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the world.

In Hazony’s interpretation, Esther’s story emerges not merely as a tale of ancient folklore but as a timeless allegory of courage, resilience, and the enduring struggle for justice in the face of tyranny. This narrative continues to resonate and inspire in the modern world.

Echoes of Esther: Unveiling the Distorted Narrative Against Israel

The timeless narrative of Esther serves as a poignant mirror reflecting our current reality. In this tale, Israel confronts existential threats, only to be unfairly maligned when it defends itself against aggressors. This distortion of truth resonates eerily with the pervasive propaganda that has fueled baseless accusations against Israel over time. It’s crucial to recognize that embracing such falsehoods only emboldens those seeking the destruction of Jewish communities, both within Israel and abroad.

The propagation of a biased narrative by entities like the UN, UNRWA, and certain media outlets perpetuates a cycle of devastation, shame, and anguish for all parties involved. Regrettably, some Western nations, including the US, Canada, and England, have yet to fully grasp the underlying motives driving this ongoing conflict — namely, the unwavering determination to obliterate Israel and its people.

Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian immigrant to the US, has tirelessly raised awareness about the insidious ideology fueling the genocidal aspirations of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and other Jihadi movements. Through her NGO, Act for America, she underscores the urgent imperative to combat hatred and to steadfastly stand with Israel in the face of adversity. (*2)

Navigating Crisis with Jewish Faith and Courage

Our Jewish faith stands as a pillar of strength during times of crisis. By entrusting ourselves to the wisdom of the Torah, we find comfort and direction amidst uncertainty. The story of Esther emphasizes our unwavering conviction in divine guidance, which remains constant for those who pursue righteousness.

As we joyously celebrate Purim, let us fervently pray for the swift defeat of our adversaries, and may peace gracefully descend upon Israel, the Middle East, and every corner of our world. May the jubilant spirit of this occasion infuse our hearts with unbridled joy and optimism.

For those eager to delve deeper into the profound lessons of Purim, I extend a warm invitation to explore my previous posts: What Can Purim Teach Us Today?, Jerusalem’s Unique Purim Celebration: A Blend of Festivity and Tradition, CIJR Colloquium: The Iranian Question & Purim’s Lessons.



  1. Marcus, Yosef. “The Megillah in English.” Kehot Publication Society. https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/109275/jewish/In-English.htm.
  2. “Act for America.” actforamerica.org.