The Jews had light and joy, gladness and honor. So be it with us.
If this title sounds familiar to you, don't be surprised, it's part of the Havdalah service that we recite every Saturday night at the conclusion of the Sabbath. But this is Israel is Beautiful's PURIM blog, so what's the connection?
"LaYehudim hayta orah v'simcha v'sasson, ken tihiyah lanu."
"ליהודים הייתה אורה ושמחה וששון, כן תהיה לנו."
The original source of this Israel is Beautiful blog title, actually comes from Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther. When the decree for the death of the Jews is reversed and it is the wicked Haman who is sentenced to death on the very gallows meant for the protagonist, Mordechai; the Jews, thinking they were faced with certain death, rejoice.
Purim in Israel
And, as you can see from the pictures above, in Israel, we CELEBRATE Purim! Children run around in costumes for days in the lead-up to the holiday. Bus drivers can be found wearing silly hats, and nearly every shop sells a host of items to include in mishloach manot baskets; the traditional baskets of treats that people exchange with their family, neighbors, friends and, often times, to complete strangers.
Vans blasting familiar Purim music can be heard up and down the main streets in cities and towns and even Israeli chain supermarkets, such as Rami Levi or Supersol, play Purim music over the loudspeakers Purim in Israel is all about the fun. And yes, it's exhausting for parents trying to make sure that each child has his or her costume for school, parties, and the holiday itself. It's crazy to arrange costumes while making hamentaschen (or, as their known here, oznei Haman - Haman's ears) while also working and arranging our own Purim celebrations. Purim is the time of year when the whole country seems to 'let down their hair' and celebrate for a few days.
The Purim seudah - holiday meal
In addition to the merriment, it's also common to give a few words of Torah, words of Biblical inspiration at the Purim seudah (holiday meal). And, in that spirit of tradition, we'd like to share a little Torah with you.
A small story with BIG consequences
At the end of the second chapter of Megillat Esther, there's a little story; just a few verses that seem like an afterthought. Esther is already ensconced in the palace and her cousin Mordechai is keeping watch at the palace gates. He overhears two of King Achashverosh's servants, Bigthan and Teresh, plotting to overthrow the monarch. Who cares? Two servants want to kill the king and the king is no friend of the Jews. But Mordechai doesn't keep silent, he reports his discovery to Esther who, in turn, informs Achashverosh. The accusations of the plot are proven to be true and the accused are summarily hanged. End of story? Not quite. The text tells us that Mordechai's actions were recorded in the Chronicles of the Kings. Mordechai could not have known it yet, but his good deed would later on be instrumental in saving the Jewish people. Achashverosh, though a cruel tyrant in many respects, did not forget Mordechai's intervention to save his life. Mordechai acted of his own accord and showed initiative. He has no idea that his deed would ultimately benefit him but he understands that, although not an easy decision for him, it was the right thing to do. It's a quality trait that we all hope to emulate.