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Can you tell me the Purim story in brief?

  

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Rabbi Marcus: Welcome to Askmoses.com. What's your question?

onefoot: Can u tell me the whole Purim story in 500 words or less?

Rabbi Marcus: I’ll try. The story takes us back to circa 360 BCE to a place called Shushan (Susa), somewhere in modern-day Iran. The king of Persia at the time, Ahasuerus II, is celebrating his third year of kingship and he makes a royal feast.1 At the feast, he orders his queen Vashti to appear before him to show off her beauty. She refuses and he has her killed.

Rabbi Marcus: The king grows depressed, and upon the suggestion of his servants orders all beautiful maidens to be brought to Shushan the capital. Of all the girls that are brought, the king chooses a girl named Esther. She’s Jewish. She’s also the cousin of a man named Mordechai, who tells her not to tell the king of her origin.

Rabbi Marcus: Meanwhile, Mordechai is hanging out around the palace to keep an eye on her. One day he overhears a plot to kill the king. He tells Esther, she tells the king, the king investigates and has the two rebels killed. Mordechai’s now on the king’s favor list.

Rabbi Marcus: But there’s a bad guy named Haman. He's a slimy fellow but he's tight with the king. The king promotes him to the highest office. According to law, everyone has to bow to Haman whenever he passes by. Mordechai, a proud Jew, refuses to bow to a human being. Haman is incensed. He wants to get rid of Mordechai and his entire nation. Over a drink, he offers the king 10,000 talents of silver for the right to exterminate the Jews.

onefoot: sorry to interrupt, but what’s a talent?

Rabbi Marcus: Actually, in Hebrew it’s a kikar. That’s between 50 and 150 pounds depending on who u ask. So we’re looking at an offer of many tons of silver.

Rabbi Marcus: Anyhow, the king agrees. A royal edict is released calling on the king’s subjects to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, men, women, and children, on one day, the thirteenth of the month Adar. (Haman chooses this day by means of a lottery, a pur in Persian, hence “Purim.”)

Rabbi Marcus: Mordechai rends his garments in mourning. The Jews all over the land are in mourning. They turn to G-d and pray. They show extraordinary strength in the face of challenge: not one chooses to abandon his faith to save his skin. They will remain Jews and face the consequences.

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.

Footnotes

  • 1. The Babylonian kings were aware of Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Jewish exile in Babylonia would only last for 70 years. The kings were constantly fearful that when the 70 years completed they would lose their power, and maybe even their life. Ahasueros miscalculated the time frame for the 70 years and thought they were over by the time he entered his third year of kingship. Thus he made a huge party, at which he used vessels from the destroyed holy temple in Jerusalem.

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Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Haman
Descendant of anti-Semitic tribe of Amalek and prime minister of the Persian Empire in the 5th century b.c.e. Schemed to annihilate all the Jews, and the holiday of Purim was established when the plot was foiled.
Esther
1. Jewish wife of Persian King Ahasuerus in the 4th century BCE. Foiled the plot of Haman, the prime minister, to exterminate all the Jews. The holiday of Purim commemorates this miraculous salvation. 2. One of the 24 Books of the Bible, which chronicles the abovementioned story.
Ahasuerus
King of the Persian Empire in the 4th century BCE. Husband of Esther, heroine of the Purim story.
Mordechai
Cousin of Queen Esther, and Jewish leader in the 4th century BCE. Played a large role in saving the Jews after Haman, the Persian prime minister, plotted to exterminate them all. The holiday of Purim was established to commemorate this miracle.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Chronicles
The final book of the Bible. This book summarizes the events described in the first 23 books of the Bible, from Creation until the destruction of the 1st Temple.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.