Thursday, February 25, 2021, marks the celebration of the Jewish festival of Purim. Jewish people around the world will gather to recall God’s protection in days of old. This is a time when people eat special foods, dress up and read the Megillat Ester or scroll of Esther in the synagogue, where a lot of noise is made at the calling of the names of the three main protagonists: Mordechai, Esther and Haman. Gifts are often exchanged as well as donations made to charity.
• PURIM IN THE BIBLE: The first time we read about Purim, is at the end of the book of Esther–a book about God’s miraculous preservation of the Jewish people–even though this is the only book of the Bible where God is never mentioned by name. This doesn’t prevent God from orchestrating an incredible story of survival, redemption and blessing, albeit behind-the-scenes. The story of Purim is also a very strong post-Genesis example of God’s promise to Abraham to bless those who bless him and curse him who curses Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Haman, the archenemy of the Jews built gallows to hang Mordechai, and at the end, he and all of his sons were hanging on these very gallows…A curse for a curse! People ought to take the promise made by God to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 very seriously. In a sense, it is God’s foreign policy when it comes to Israel, and it has proven absolutely true all throughout history (biblical and post-biblical).
Haman’s approach to the “Jewish problem” is worth looking at from the perspective of Satan, the ultimate enemy of the Jews. Early in the scriptures, in Genesis 3, Satan came up with a master plan: Use people – even Eve – to destroy the Jews on a global scale – and antisemitism was born! The reason? Satan is very familiar with the message of the Bible and with God’s master plan for the world in general and for Israel and the Jewish people in particular.
Satan knows that the day that the Jewish people recognize Yeshua as their long-awaited Messiah as told in Zechariah 12:10, will usher in His return, but that will also mark the beginning of the end of Satan’s career of hatred and destruction. In an attempt at postponing it all–since he cannot prevent it, Satan is the mastermind behind the longest hatred. He is the creator of antisemitism and he continually subcontracts his hatred against the Jews to various groups through the ages, making the most irrational thoughts, words and deeds appear very rational to those who listen to him. The book of Esther tells us the story of how Satan used Haman to go after the Jews. He could have succeeded, but God is greater, even behind-the-scenes.
In Esther chapter 3, Haman puts his curse against the Jews in motion, and because of one Jew, namely Mordecai, Haman seeks to destroy all of them. We start seeing the irrational behaviors promoted by an antisemitic heart. Haman seeks to destroy ALL THE JEWS of the Persian Empire where many of them lived at the time.
In a sense, Haman tried to make antisemitism a government-sanctioned policy, something that will be picked up again much later in history by Nazi Germany. We read in Esther 3:1-2, 5-6 “After these events, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman; for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage…. When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were; therefore, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Furthermore, in verse 8, Haman proceeds to give the reason why the Jews are not wanted in Ahasuerus’ kingdom, and that is simply because THEY ARE DIFFERENT. “Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people, and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.
Because of his hatred for one man who happened to be Jewish, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews of the kingdom. This was a very extreme decision, driven by an irrational desire to hold all people of the same ethnic group responsible because of one of theirs who actually wasn’t guilty of anything but faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Haman was on a mission to destroy all the Jews.
However, he also realized that his endeavor would require some logistical finesse, so in Esther 3:9-13, we read that he asked the king to issue a decree for the destruction of the Jewish people, knowing that a royal decree cannot be canceled or ignored. Not only did he ask for the decree, but he also committed to financing the whole project out of his own wealth. “If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king’s business,…And letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to seize their possessions as plunder.
While it might not be obvious at first glance, the process by which Haman sought to annihilate all the Jews within his reach and the one used by Hitler and the Nazi regime have many similarities. Consider the parallels between Haman and Hitler in these five points:
• One Man’s jealousy led to uncontrolled hatred (3:5)
• Targeted hatred became global hatred (3:6, 13)
• Hatred was apparently caused because of non-conformity (3:8)
• Attempted annihilation of the Jews was structured and organized (3:9-13)
• Funds were spent and financial wealth was provided for the perpetrators (3:9, 4:7)
Fast forward to the 1930s and 1940s, and we see how Hitler developed his well-organized “factory of death” against the Jewish people.
• PURIM in the 1940s: Soon after coming to power, Hitler quickly banned the celebration of Jewish festivals including Purim. In a speech delivered the day after Kristallnacht, in November 1938, Julius Streicher (1885-1946), Hitler’s“Director of the Central Committee for the Defense against Jewish Atrocity and Boycott Propaganda” declared that since the Jews killed 75,000 Persians in the days of Esther, the same fate could befall the German people and so the Jews had to be stopped. Streicher was also the publisher of the virulently antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer. After the war, he was never accused of any actions or orders against the Jews but for thoughts and words published in his newspaper and as a result, he was convicted of “crimes against humanity” and sentenced to death. The Nuremberg military tribunal declared, “Streicher’s incitement of murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with war crimes as defined by the Charter, and constitutes a crime against humanity.”
Again, the “curse-for-a-curse” biblical principle was applied to Streicher, who, on October 16, 1946, was executed on the gallows at the end of the Nuremberg Trials. Streicher’s final words before he was let down into the gallows trap door was “Purim Fest 1946”, as his final claim that the Jews were out to get him. It would have required a certain knowledge of the Jewish lifestyle and festivals for Streicher to even make that parallel.
As to Hitler’s obsession with the destruction of all European Jews, history is our witness that all methods used by Haman–as irrational as they might have been– were also used by Hitler.
Hitler’s jealousy led to uncontrolled hatred. It is hard to pinpoint why Hitler was so against the Jews. There have been rumors that he had some distant Jewish ancestry, and also that he was mad at the Jewish doctor who unsuccessfully treated his mother who died of cancer in 1908. There is also the possibility that Hitler took his lead from the Muslim Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (1921-1937) Amin al-Husseini. All these are nearly impossible to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt, but the fact that almost a whole country of Germans was ready to follow one man into his evil agenda of destruction says a lot about our sinful nature.
• Targeted hatred became global hatred. Whatever hatred Hitler had against one Jew or a few of them, it should have never led to his desire to kill all of us. Yet, the ghetto that separated and ostracized the Jews eventually led to the Einsatzgruppen (death squads responsible for mass shootings of Jews after they were forced to dig their own graves). When shooting people was deemed inefficient and psychologically damaging for the SS officers (you read it right!), large trucks and vans were outfitted with engines that pumped carbon monoxide into the sealed compartment filled with Jewish people. Even that method proved to be too slow for Hitler who developed the concentration camps that became the death camps. The rest is history. That is of course if you don’t buy into the ludicrous Holocaust Denial theory.
• Hatred was apparently caused because of non-conformity
The fact that the Jewish people had survived so much hardship and violence against them for centuries was probably a mystery to Hitler, but possibly a reason why he loathed the Jews so much.
The Jewish people have survived through the ages and continue to hold many of the ancient customs and traditions. To Jewish people, identity is often synonymous with survival, so Jewish rituals and customs are critical. This would appear as non-conformity, but while they might be strictly religious at home and in their own community, Jewish people have always been willing to contribute to society wherever God placed them in the diaspora. Jewish ingenuity has proven that beyond the shadow of a doubt over the years.
• Attempted annihilation of the Jews was structured and organized
Hitler’s “Final solution to the Jewish question” was further organized at the time of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in 1942 when Reinhard Heydrich took leadership of it to make sure that various government ministries all complied and worked together. The meeting itself only lasted 90 minutes, but it further sealed the fate of European Jewry
• Funds were spent, and financial wealth was provided for the perpetrators
Much money was needed for war and to maintain the infrastructure of the death camps into which Hitler fed the Jewish people. Forced Jewish labor, taxes on Jews and confiscated Jewish wealth were factors in how Hitler financed the war and the Holocaust. Eventually, even those resources ran dry. Hitler was not a very good military commander, but he was very stubborn with his destructive obsession with the Jews. Towards the end of the war, this might have cost him more than he wished, when resources used for the transport of Jews were not available to fight at the Russian front.
PURIM IN 2021: Satan knows that he cannot succeed, but he tries without ceasing. He has indoctrinated much of the world against the Jewish people, creating antisemitism and making it the oldest and most enduring form of hatred against a people group. While he keeps sub-contracting his hatred to different groups of people, the danger remains the same and the Jewish people continue to be the “scapegoats of humanity”. The same approach used in biblical days and during Hitler’s reign is used today by historical revisionists, BDS promoters, Christian Palestinianism proponents and all other enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. If they had their way, Israel would be erased from the map and the Jewish people completely eradicated from existence and from history. But in a very “Purimesque” ending, the Jewish people will continue to flourish as promised by God Himself in Jeremiah 31:35-37 and Israel will prevail because of God.
Be it during biblical times, during the 1930s and 1940s, or even today, through thick and thin, God has always had Israel in the palm of His hand. Even though He was absent by name in the book of Esther and it felt more like “the eclipse of God” during the Holocaust, He never reneged on His promises. So, we can celebrate Purim with confidence and with joy because the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Who was behind-the-scenes in the days of Esther, has our back and still keeps His word today.
Chag Purim Sameach! Happy Purim!