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Jewish Holiday of Purim: Quick Reversals and the Importance of This Moment

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GUEST COLUMN BY DIANE MEDVED

 

I still haven’t put away my ridiculous red and yellow Jester costume from our synagogue Purim party. Purim is the Jewish holiday celebrating the events in the Book of Esther, an Alice-in-Wonderlandish tale where things really weren’t what they seemed (thus the custom of wearing costumes), as a seemingly secure future for the Jews in Persia in about 450 BC pendulum’d from certain death to triumph.

In politics, world events and personal lives, reversals teach the urgency of each moment.

The Jews had a comfortable life spread out in the Persian kingdom until Haman, a megalomaniac anti-Semite who was second-in-command, convinced King Ahashverosh to decree their annihilation, set for a single day about a year later. This gave the Jews time for a primal scream and a lot of repentance.

Esther, kidnapped for the king’s harem and then elevated to (powerless) queen, faced the task of changing the king’s mind. “Who, ME?” she demurred.

Esther’s uncle Mordechai responded through a messenger, “well, if you don’t do it, God will save the Jews another way, and who knows if you weren’t placed where you are for just this moment?” That did it; Esther agreed to approach the mercurial king, noting wryly, “if I perish, I perish.”

We’re taught that even in messianic times when lions are lying with lambs, even when the prophetic pronouncements and wise writings fade, Jews will still read the Book of Esther, into perpetuity. In a way, that’s weird, since its theme that God’s hidden but arranging everything won’t be an issue; God’s providence will be easy to see.

But Esther’s encouragement to take chances, to seize the moment, is an evergreen epiphany. Maybe even right now, today, we were each brought to this moment for this decision, this opportunity, this possibility. It’s so much easier to waste time on Buzzfeed. OK, my guilty pleasure is Houzz. There. I said it.

I should be finishing all the writing projects I talk about but somehow ignore. Each day I come to another crossroads, another opportunity, and who knows if for just this moment I was led here? Procrastination is an enormous “fail.”

Purim is the happiest Jewish holiday because events flip the Jewish people from destruction to most revered nation in the world, and the story says lots of people even converted because God’s helping hand was so obvious. We remember that even when we’re feeling God’s left the building, He can suddenly jump back in.

Similarly, we in America have so many indicators that we’ve got God’s favor, from a founding on ideals through so many improbable successes. Pick up the newspaper, and you’ll get depressed reading of refugees from Syria, pollution in China, or executions by whim-driven tyrants like Kim Jong Il who got tired of his uncle.

Why do so many immigrants risk their lives to sneak from Latin America into the U.S.? Not because they’re lawbreakers stealing jobs from eager hoards of American would-be crop-pickers, restaurant dishwashers and hotel housekeepers, but because they’re desperate to survive and support their families. In most cases they’re thwarted from leaving legally by corrupt bureaucracies that require enormous bribes to submit emigration paperwork, never mind ever petitioning U.S. immigration authorities. The U.S. doesn’t tolerate corruption; when discovered, it’s punished.

The point is that God’s Hand guides America just as He manipulated the events in the Book of Esther. In fact, my husband is writing a book about the astounding coincidences and miracles that protected and shaped our nation.

The crux of the Esther story comes the night Ahashverosh sent out the death decree. He couldn’t sleep and, thinking a little boring reading might do the trick, asked to hear the book of palace events. When he realized that Mordechai earlier saved him from would-be assassins and got no reward, everything pivots.

The King’s insomnia is odd, but even more peculiar is his sudden gratitude. Why would a guy who just ordered genocide decide to publicly commend a conspicuous member of the group he doomed? And yet, His Majesty parades Mordechai royally in the streets, an honor it turns out the evil Haman assumed would be for him. So many ironies: Haman expects laud and it goes to Mordechai. The Jews, condemned, then conquer. And appreciation is the springboard to setting everything right.

Americans often forget to appreciate the many opportunities with which we’re blessed. Easy times can reverse instantly; we must notice goodness and grab possibilities before they shift. Especially when uncertain, we might ask if it was for this moment that we have been created and placed here, and proceed as if the answer is “yes.”

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Diane Medved, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the author of five books, including the bestseller THE CASE AGAINST DIVORCE.

This column originally appeared at TruthRevolt.org on March 24, 2014.

Comments (1)

  1. From: Marge McRae   On: April 5, 2014

    Loved reading your take on Esther. That book has been a longtime favorite and source of encouragement. When all is stacked against us, God is able to pull out one or two supports and bring the whole stack down and shift the whole pile in my (our) favor. Praise God for His faithfulness.

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