Israel is once again surrounded by turmoil. As Purim approaches the following meditation can be our guide to sanity and common sense wisdom in the complex and dangerous neighborhood called the Middle East. Translated by Philip Birnbaum from the Daily Prayer Book and read on Purim for generations, these verses continue to be a source of faith and endurance to Jewish people everywhere.
(The numbers refer to footnotes I have added at the bottom)
The Lord wrecked the counsel of the heathen,
Frustrating the plans of the crafty,
When against us rose a wicked man.
A hateful offshoot of Amalek, 1
Who grew in wealth and dug his own grave,
It was his power that ensnared him! 2
He wished to entrap and was entrapped;
He sought to destroy and was destroyed.3
Haman revealed his fathers’ hatred,
And stirred Esau’s enmity to Jacob 4
He failed to recall that he, the foe,
Was born thanks to Saul’s pity for Agag. 5
The wicked panned to cut off the righteous;
But the impure was caught by the pure. 6
Mordecai’s kindness offset Saul’s fault; 7
Wicked Haman heaped guilt upon guilt.
He hid his crafty plans in his heart,
And gave himself over to evil. 8
He laid his hands on godly people,
Spending his wealth to destroy their name. 9
When Mordecai saw that wrath had gone forth,
Haman’s decrees issued in Shushan, 10
He put on sackcloth, sign of mourning,
Proclaimed a fast and sat in ashes.
Who would rise to atone for errors,
To gain pardon for our father’ sins? 11
A flower blossomed forth from a palm,
Hadassah 12 rose to stir those who slept!
Her servants hastily brought Haman,
To make him drink the wine of poison, 13
He rose by wealth and sank by evil,
Being hanged on the gallows he made. 14
All the people of the world were agape 15
When Haman’s pur 16 became our Purim.
The upright were saved from evil men;
The enemies were put in their place.
The Jews undertook to make Purim,
To rejoice each and every year.
Thou didst hear Mordecai and Esther;
Thou 17 didst hang Haman and his sons.
1 Amalek an ancient and unrelenting enemy of Israel comes to represent all the enemies of good and of God.
2 Although Haman is part of a long list of anti-Semites, the reasons the prayer gives for hating Jews is fascinating. The first of these is that money and power corrupt. This is a major issue for the Middle East dictators trying to hold onto their positions.
3 The theme of the enemies troubles falling on their own heads runs right through scripture beginning with the story of Cain and Abel. The jealousy and anger that captured Cain’s heart towards his brother Abel becomes the mark on his forehead condemning him to a life of wandering isolation and unfruitful labor. What he wanted to do to others came upon himself. Muslims are now fighting amongst themselves.
4 The prayer understands that prejudice, racism and hatred are often passed down from one generation to the next. This idea is expressed in Jeremiah 31:29 “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Could this be part of Yeshua’s prayer when he recognizes that the children do not even understand what they are doing? “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
5 King Saul spared wicked King Agag (an Amalakite) though the Lord was angered with Saul for this. It appears that Saul’s mercy though well intended was unappreciated and resulted in even more trouble.
6 “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Yeshua
7 Refers to Mordecai taking care of the young orphaned Esther. As Yeshua says, “Wisdom is justified by her children.” Luke 7:35 Good deeds will always find their reward.
8 The prayer acknowledges that Haman didn’t just wake up one day and decide to hate the Jews. There is a long process that goes on which eventually results in his wicked actions. God is longsuffering and allows for every opportunity for repentance. Let us keep our hearts open for the real possibility for change in the Middle East.
9 How many Middle East nations are wasting their vast resources on hatred and violence instead of social and economic development? If they continue in this way they will bring poverty upon themselves.
10 The Persian capital city of the times.
11 In spite of all the evil and wickedness that have arisen against his people, Mordechai, and the Jewish people, cry out and mourn in repentance for their own sinfulness. Wow.
12 Hadassah whose name in Hebrew means myrtle is the common bush that grows in every back yard in Israel. Its leaves carry an aromatic perfume and it shows small white flowers in Spring.
13 Of course it wasn’t real poison he drank, but rather the results of his bitterness of heart and soul because of his anti-Semetic attitudes. It is a fatal cup to drink.
14 Oh the irony and the ecstasy of God’s kingdom ways.
15 Not the Greek for love. They were so deeply moved that they were left wide-mouthed speechless.
16 “pur” comes from the Babylonia “puru” which means “lot” and is used only in the Book of Esther. It is similar in meaning to the usual Hebrew word for “fate” which is “goral.” Naming the festival Purim is acknowledging the uncanny circumstances surrounding this uncommon story where we witness the sovereign hand of God throughout though his name is never mentioned once n the entire scroll.
17 God is given credit although it was the King of Persia, King Ahasuerus, that said, “Hang him.” Rabbis referred to God's role as hester panim, or "hiding of the Face", which is also said to be hinted at in a word play (Megillat Hester) regarding the Hebrew name for the Book of Esther, Megillat Esther—literally, "revelation of [that which is] hidden."
The festival of Purim is celebrated in Israel once again on the 14th day of Adar or March 20th.