Tomorrow an important Jewish holiday and an important Christian holiday coincide. As Christians solemnly observe Good Friday - and anticipate Easter, the most joyous day in the Christian year - Jews will be celebrating Purim, which begins tonight at sundown.
Purim recalls the deliverance of the Jewish people from their enemies nearly 2,400 years ago. The Purim story, found in the biblical book of Esther, is one of the most memorable in the entire Bible, one that Jews will hear read in synagogue during Purim services.
The King of Persia chooses a beautiful young woman named Esther to be his queen, unaware that she is Jewish. Esther hears from Mordecai, her uncle, that the King has entrusted the fate of Persian Jews to Haman, the King's top adviser. Haman hates the Jews, and issues an order to kill them all.
At great risk to her own life, Esther reveals to the King that she is Jewish and pleads with him to save her people. He agrees to do so, and, in a fitting twist, hands down to the evil Haman the death sentence Haman himself had planned to give the Jews.
Even if Esther's story is familiar to you, I urge you today to re-read it and reflect upon its timeless message. Esther's bravery and obedience to God -- her willingness to put her own life on the line to save her people -- teaches us a valuable lesson about self-sacrifice and purpose that is as true and meaningful today as it was thousands of years ago.
Haman, too, is more than just a historical figure. Looking around, we can see that there are plenty of "Hamans" in the world today. We hear echoes of Haman in Iranian president Ahmadinejad's frequent calls to destroy the Jewish state… in the pronouncement by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that, "Before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded"… in radial Muslim clerics who preach that Jews are the "descendants of apes and pigs."
One of the messages of Purim — a message that applies to Jews and Christians alike — is that in a world with no shortage of "Hamans," we need more "Esthers" committed to standing humbly before God and seeking to defend His people in the face of all difficulties. I thank you, my friend, for being one of those "Esthers" through your support of The Fellowship's lifesaving work.
I wish a festive Purim holiday to my fellow Jews and, to my Christian friends, a joyous Easter. And, to all, prayers for shalom, peace.