Celebrating International Women’s Day & Biblical Queen Esther

Holidays are celebrated on the same day of the Jewish calendar every year, but the Jewish year is not the same length as a solar year on the civil calendar used by most of the western world, so the dates of Jewish holidays shift on the civil calendar. For this reason, this year Purim happens to fall on the same day as (IWD) International Women’s Day, March 8th. I decided to join the two and feature Queen Esther as my profile for IWD. (Also, my Hebrew name is Esther Sura, so I have a soft spot for Queen Esther!)

The Story of Purim: A Celebration of Esther in the Bible
(Source: www.about.com with some direct quotes)

The Purim celebration is based upon the biblical Book of Esther, which recounts the story of Queen Esther and how she saved the Jewish people from annihilation. The “villain” in this Biblical story is Haman, who plans to kill all the Jews under the king’s reign because a Jew named Mordechai would not bow down to Haman.  Esther is now the king’s wife, but the king knows not that she is a Jewess and the cousin of Mordechai, who asked her to keep her identity hidden.

When Mordechai learns that of his people will be killed, he begs Esther to speak to King Ahasuerus — not a simple request. At the time, appearing before him without a summons was punishable by death. “But Mordechai urges her to take action anyways, saying that perhaps she became queen so that she could save her people. Esther decides to fast before taking action and requests that her fellow Jews fast along with her.”

After fasting for three days Esther  appears before the king in her finest clothes. She asks that Haman be invited to a banquet; he comes, and when the king asks what she desires, Esther answers: “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated.”

Esther then points to Haman as the one behind this genocide. The King is enraged. So instead of  all the Jews being killed, Haman and in some versions, all of his family, are hanged from the same gallows Haman had erected for the Jews. Esther does save her people and that day became Purim, because Haman cast the “pur” (the lot) against the Jews, yet failed to destroy them.

In modern times on this day, we eat three-cornered cookies called hamantaschen*, named after Haman. Also, we prepare packages of goodies for the poor and read The Book of Esther, which is called The Megillah. (One of 5 in the Bible.) We also have a party and children (and adults) dress up in costume, somewhat like a Jewish Halloween.

A photo of a young Queen Esther going to a Purim party. Girls often dress as Queen Esther, the “star” of Purim

I like to focus on Esther’s bravery rather than the fact that Haman and his family were killed instead of the Jews. The Bible is filled with wars & violence, which disturbs me, so I plan to focus on making baskets of food for the hungry and wearing a costume to pay tribute to my namesake, Esther.

*See my recipes for Hamantaschen under Kitchen Nutrition. You can write in Hamantaschen for Purim in the Search bar and 2 recipes will come up; one vegan, one not. They are also called Purim cakes.

One Response to “Celebrating International Women’s Day & Biblical Queen Esther”

  1. Bernice Moss Says:

    ellen sue:

    Thank you for sending this lovely story regarding Purim.

    Regards,
    Bernice

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