Tonight’s “Minor” Jewish Holiday Of Purim Gives Powerful Warning To The Wealthy And Privileged of All Faiths

Purim begins tonight, the night of the full moon in Adar, the last month of the Jewish calendar. Children in the religious Jewish neighborhoods of Lakewood, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York dress up in costumes.  Then, in a reverse of Halloween, they go from house to house to deliver treats instead of asking for them.

This is done to remember when messengers delivered scrolls containing “good news” throughout the Persian (Iranian) Empire 400 years before Jesus.  That “good news” was that the Persian Emperor, Ahasuerus,  had cancelled his previous decree that all Jews in the Empire be killed on the last full moon of winter.  The entire story is told in the Old Testament Book of Esther.  Jews call it the “Megilla’ or “Scroll” of Esther.

At the time, the Persian Empire was one of the largest in the world.  It contained 127 provinces.  It ran from Ethiopia and Egypt in Africa in the west to India in the East.  It included all of what is now known as the Middle East.  from Ethiopia, to Egypt, to India and included most of the Middle East.

While Jewish children walk from house to house delivering treats, Jewish adults celebrate the holiday with eating and drinking.  They also read “the whole Megilla”, that is the entire Book of Esther.

The Book of Esther is the longest and most recent book included in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It tells of how the villain Haman, the Emperor’s chief advisor, persuaded the Emperor to kill all the Jews in the Empire and take all their property.

As is written in the  Book of Esther:

“3:8 And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.

“3:9 If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.

“3:10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.

“3:11 And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee. . .”

Haman’s plan was simple and practical.  By killing and robbing just the “one percent” who were Jews, the Emperor could fully fund the government and his lavish lifestyle for many years.  This would also make him popular with the other 99%, since he would not have to raise their taxes.

In a way, Haman’s plan was the classic “National Socialism” of Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  It was what Communists did to “the borgeoisie” in Russia under Vladimir Lenin in 1919-1920 and to the “old land and business owners” in China under Mao Zedong in 1949-1950.

This was easy to do.  The Jews of the Persian Empire (like the Jews of Germany, the bourgeoisie of Russia and the land and business owners of China) had wealth.  And they were a small minority scattered throughout the country who were unable to defend themselves.

And this would all be popular with the vast majority of subjects, since they would benefit from a well-funded government without having to pay taxes.

However, the Jews in the ancient Persian Empire got lucky.  The Emperor and Haman were both superstitious.  They threw dice to determine the best day to kill the Jews.  The Hebrew word for dice is “purim” which is the name of this Jewish holiday.

Because of a lucky throw of the dice, the date selected to round up and kill all Jews was the last full moon of the year.  This gave Jews a full year to respond to this threat.

The Jews of Persia were lucky in other ways.  Mordecai, a prominent Jew, had previously discovered a plot against the Emperor and saved his life.  Also, the Emperor also had a dispute with his wife.  He later ended up marrying Esther, a Jewish girl who didn’t tell anyone she was Jewish.

When Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, learned of Haman’s plan to kill and rob  the Jews, he asked Esther to approach the Emperor and beg him to cancel it.  However, Esther hesitated.  She responded to Mordecai by saying:

4:11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or women, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

Mordicai then gave this iconic response:

4:13 Do not imagine that you of all Jews will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent now, relief and deliverance will come from somewhere else, while you and your family die. And who knows, maybe you got your privileged position for such a time as this!? 

Esther then changed her mind and approached the king. The Emperor raised his scepter, and let Esther speak to him.  Esther invited the Emperor to attend two sumptuous banquets which he thoroughly enjoyed. Then Esther persuaded the Emperor to cancel his original order to kill all Jews in the Empire and to allow Jews to defend themselves.

When the last full moon of winter came, the Jews defeated those who attacked them. Then the Emperor executed Haman by hanging Haman on one of the gallows he had built to kill Mordechai, one of the top Jewish leaders.

Years later, President Abraham Lincoln often used the term “Gallows of Haman” to describe how his political enemies destroyed themselves with plots they had cooked up to destroy him.

Many Americans today enjoy wealth and privilege because of our Constitution and culture of liberty. But when our Constitution and our culture of liberty are both relentlessly attacked by the “progressive” left, few Americans with wealth and privilege defend them.

Like Esther, they remain silent because they are afraid to expose themselves, their families, and their businesses to criticism or retaliation that would put their wealth or privilege at risk.

But Mordecai’s warning to Esther applies to them as well. If they fail to defend our Constitution and liberty now, they will also lose everything if our country falls apart.

Instead of worrying about losing their wealth and privilege, they should understand that our Constitution and America’s “exceptional” culture of liberty and laws to equally protect the “unalienable rights” of each individual is what gave them and their families wealth and privilege in the first place.

Like Esther, they should think that maybe they got their wealth and privileged positions “for such a time as this”.  Maybe they were giving that their wealth and privilege to protect that Constitution and culture and government of liberty.

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  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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