Wednesday, March 07, 2007




I watched a movie the other day, unfortunately I cannot remember its name, but it was a fictional story based on the true events of the holocaust. A young lady in our present day falls unconscious at a party and then is taken back to 1940’s Germany. The Jewish community she finds herself in is celebrating a wedding. While the wedding ceremony is in progress, a large contingent of German Soldiers arrive and the commandant orders everyone onto the trucks as they are to be “relocated”. They are taken first by truck and then by train (as if they were cattle) to Poland, where they are placed in concentration camps and made to wear yellow Star-of-David patches. At nights they are herded into longhouses, which were very crowded, and which were very unhygienic, and during the day they had to work, work, work. If anyone became too ill to work, they would be killed. There were to be no children under 10 as they could not work and were in the eyes of the German authorities, a waste of resources. One of the Jewish women were pregnant at the time. They managed to hide the pregnancy from the Germans but of course when the baby was born, word got out and the authorities came looking. They were going to take the baby away, but the mother refused to let go of the child. So she, the baby, and another women who protested too much got dragged off and executed. A very touching moment of the show was where Hannah, our heroine, decides that they must have a Seder to celebrate Pesach (Passover), there were many things missing from the seder (This speaks of the order of events at a Passover celebration) because of their circumstances, but there was a group of Jewish ladies celebrating what has to be their most holy celebration, in this awful situation. The irony of Jewish people celebrating their liberation from slavery in Egypt, by the hand of G-d, when all around them is evidence that the Germans sought to wipe them off the face of the earth. Towards the end of the celebration, when it is customary for someone to “Open the door” for Elijah” it was decided who would do this important task. They opened the door of the long house, and standing outside was not Elijah, but a geman guard, armed with a gun. “What are you doing?” asked the guard. The Jewish woman answered, “We needed some fresh air!” “But you are not supposed to open the door” he responded. “Oh, We’re sorry.” Not long after this Seder, they were out digging in the grounds of the camp when we overheard a senior German officer state that he was not satisfied with the numbers of Jews who were being “exterminated.” Hannah’s friend was very ill, coughing badly. Hannah could see that her friend would be discovered and so she told her to try and control her coughing, also, she said, give me your scarf, that the friend was wearing on her head, she put it on her own head, and started to cough louder. The guard took Hannah off, and we see them being herded into the gas ovens. When the gas finally overwhelmed them, we are taken back to the modern times and there lies Hannah on a bed and she recovers. She relates to her aunt what she experienced, and her Aunt recognises that it was she whose life was saved by Hannah. Though the story was fiction, the background was factual, and as such was very moving. The German’s eventually wiped out 6 million Jews, but they did not succeed in eradicating them altogether (Hitler’s ultimate objective).


He was not the first either. This weekend is Purim. The celebration of how the Jews were saved from being annihilated in one day. Purim means lots, that is the casting of lots, because Haman cast lots to determine the day on which he planned to eradicate the Jewish nation, but I am getting ahead of myself. You can read the whole story in the Book of Esther, in the Bible.


I’ve been reading a lot on this celebration on the Internet. I have learnt so much from and Very interesting stuff. I do not wish to re-invent the wheel, but I just wanted to reflect on one or two of the customs associated with Purim that I found interesting.


Children on the feast of Purim dress in disguise. Fun for children to play “dress up” but there is more to it than just dressing up. The reason they do that is that G-d is working in the background. The reason, according to Ask Moses is that there are two types of Miracle – the patent obvious miracle, for which there is no other explanation (The Red sea Crossing, the axe head floating, Naaman being healed of leprosy in the Jordan, to pick a few Old Testament examples) and then where circumstances work to cause a favourable outcome – what some might say was a “co-incidence.) The unique thing about the Book of Esther in the Bible is it is the only book where G-d’s name is not mentioned at all. However, clearly He was clearly at work in this desperate situation. Though G-d may be incognito at times, he is not being deceptive, which is what disguise suggests to me, but He uses everything at His disposal for His purposes. This includes the hearts of leaders. King Ahasuerus may have thought that his extending the scepter to Esther was his decision to make, but it was G-d who caused the decision to go His way. Haman may have thought that the 13th day of Adar was merely due to the rolling of the dice. As you know, the meaning of the word Purim is “lots” as in the casting of lots. But G-d controlled the fall of those dice, or however the lots were cast, as much as He moved to get Esther into her position of influence, and He caused Mordechai to hear the plotting of the men to assassinate Ahasuerus. In a local magazine a reader wrote saying that she had recently been attacked by muggers and felt “abandoned by G-d,” She briefly related what happened, and it turns out that just as the attack was starting a car turned into the avenue where it was taking place. The presence of the car frightened the attackers away. The counsellor pointed out that that car didn’t just happen to turn into the street.


Another custom, and this one took me surprise, is that people celebrating Purim are expected to get drunk. Apparently this has to do with the party that the King had at which Vashti was deposed and executed. Of course, they are not too insistent on this dictum these days.


Nowadays a highpoint in the Purim celebrations is the Purim Shpiel which is a play akin to the Christian Nativity play, in that the story of Esther is acted out. Part of the tradition is that the audience cheers for Esther and Mordechai and boo at Haman.


One last thing before I wish all my Jewish friends a very happy (not to say merry) Purim. There is a book that has been put out called One Night with the King – It follows a film of the same name, all about the  story of Esther. I intend to buy it when I get some money.


G-d Bless.




Well, I’m a bit late for Purim, but I hope you enjoy reading it.






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